x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE association gaining respect and sponsors

The nascent UAE Rugby Union is already gaining respect and sponsors.

The new governing body for rugby in the country may feel they are starting from scratch, but there is a lot to be said for a clean slate.

On early evidence, the Rugby Association (RA) clearly have some influence. Yesterday they announced a tie-up with Gilbert, a leading rugby equipment manufacturer, to supply kit to the national 15s and sevens teams.

This follows swiftly on from the announcement that Emirates have agreed to help ease the financial burden on the seven Dubai rugby clubs for playing and training at The Sevens.

The biggest boon is the length of these deals: the ground subsidies will initially last for four years, and Gilbert will provide their services for five.

The sport has rarely known such corporate pull in this part of the world.

The final stages of the Arabian Gulf era did coincide with the global economic downturn, but that anomalous body was always regarded with ambivalence, at best, by sponsors.

It reached the point last year, ahead of the Asian Five Nations, that the Gulf had to auction off shirt-front sponsorship rights on eBay, the online sales website. Even then, they did not get a bid worthy of the reserve price.

It may be early days, but these are already times of plenty in comparison to what has gone before for the game here.

It is understandable that Ian Bremner, the RA chief executive, is pleading patience, but he has every reason to feel optimistic, too.