Abu Dhabi Saracens' move into the UAE Premiership was bold and, ultimately, correct
Success shows Abu Dhabi Saracens’ ambition was not misplaced
Playing in a division not befitting your team’s merits is no fun, no matter what sport you play. Even in social five-a-side football, a side that always loses has a limited shelf life.
Perpetual defeats damage morale – and in amateur sport, that can quickly become fatal. But there is a difficult balance to strike. Uncompetitive, landslide victories get nobody anywhere, either.
When Toa Dubai cut a swathe through UAE Conference rugby at the turn of the decade, they seemed born ready to compete at the very top of the Premiership.
Then some players left to form Dubai Wasps, and Toa, who are now known as Arabian Knights, have declined sharply since.
As such, Abu Dhabi Saracens’ decision to move into Premiership rugby at the start of last season, when they were anything but dominant in the division below, was a brave one.
They did not have the impressive results to show for themselves that Toa did. Their side was missing players in key positions, and their squad lacked depth.
Dave Jackson and Steve Arnott’s project could easily have foundered on the back of a string of heavy defeats. However, their bold choice had the significant effect of establishing the club as a credible alternative to Abu Dhabi Harlequins.
People arriving in the capital now have a choice of where to play – and both offer the chance to play at the highest level the UAE game offers. Saracens are thriving as a result of their ambition.