x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE's Rugby league steps up but stays out of Rugby union's way

Rugby league begins its latest and most meaningful attempt to cement its place on the UAE sports scene, and the people who are trying to promote the 13-man code here have been canny, explains Paul Radley.

Organisers of the UAE's Rugby league matches are being careful to avoid any conflict with the UAE's already established Rugby union, such as the national team (in black) playing home matches in the Asian Five Nations.
Organisers of the UAE's Rugby league matches are being careful to avoid any conflict with the UAE's already established Rugby union, such as the national team (in black) playing home matches in the Asian Five Nations.

Rugby league begins its latest and most meaningful attempt to cement its place on the UAE sports scene this evening when the first domestic league fixtures are staged at Dubai Sports City.

It is an exciting time for the sport.

Not so long ago, there was just enough interest for one scratch team to play. Now there are four teams, comprising two from Dubai, one from Al Ain and one from Abu Dhabi, and the people who are trying to promote the 13-man code here have been canny.

First off, they have observed there is no point trying to compete with rugby union, which has been well established here for more than 40 years. Moreover, they have done all they can to ensure they do not encroach on union's patch. Their season will be starting two weeks later than originally planned so as not to distract from the UAE union team's international campaign in any way.

The four evenings of fixtures have been deliberately planned so as not clash with Asian Five Nations matches at home to Japan next week and away to the Philippines the following weekend. All of which has been a major stroke of luck for union, as it does not take a major leap of imagination to think league could become very popular, very quick. These festival days, where all four teams play at the same venue one after the other, and with buses laid on for the sides who have to travel, could be a masterstroke. All oval ball enthusiasts here could be wanting a piece of this action soon.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

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