Dubai Wasps the latest club to feel financial sting as they contemplate folding

Fears are growing that Dubai Wasps could be forced to fold before the start of the new rugby season.

Matt Jones
by Matt Jones
7th July 2017

article:7th July 2017

Fears are growing that Dubai Wasps could be forced to fold before the start of the new rugby season.

Sponsors withdrawing their backing and depleted player numbers are major concerns for the club, which has been battling to keep their heads above water for a number of years.


Wasps lost major sponsor the Rose & Crown Dubai this week, while other sponsorship deals are yet to be renewed, with the club fearing a tie with Mediclinic could also go.

That would leave the club with a Dh50,000 deficit heading into the season, with Wasps’ hierarchy also fearing a threadbare squad could be depleted still further by the lure of lucrative offers from rival clubs.

Joint chairmen Laurence Parker and Ben Rothwell sent messages to players this week asking for each to commit to paying a Dh500 membership fee for the coming season by early August, otherwise they believe the only decision left open to them would be to call it a day.

“We had a meeting of senior players and committee members to discuss the financial situation this week and we have a workable plan moving forward, but it does mean cutting our cloth accordingly,” said Rothwell.

“We won’t start the season if we aren’t 100 per cent sure we can finish the season – it wouldn’t be fair to other teams in the league.”

Rothwell says a playing squad of 30 is needed to carry on, while he said dropping down from the UAE Conference to the third-tier Community League could be a viable option.

“The main issues are that we lost our major sponsor and other sponsorship deals haven’t yet been renewed and we aren’t optimistic, given the financial situation here,” added Rothwell.

“Coupled with the fact that the cost of playing and training here has continued to rise. Three years ago all clubs had pitch hire at The Sevens paid as part of being in the league.

“When that changed the costs obviously massively increased, and now you are looking at the best part of Dh6,000 a game if you want to play, provide meals and a post match drink for each player.”

Wasps have seen a flurry of players leave in recent seasons, whether it be for another team or simply because of injury, retirement or relocation.

Despite this, Rothwell says a core of players remain, although he fears more departures this summer.

“We have a strong player base and a committed group of lads who want to make it work,” he said.

“It’s just hard to recruit players when some of the bigger and newer clubs are able to offer players other opportunities such as playing in the Premiership and also better facilities.”

It is a situation Wasps are not alone in facing, but it is the latest bump of what has been a rocky road for the club ever since they started the 2014/15 season with a Dh10,000 fine from the UAE Rugby Federation for failing to send a club member on a medical course.

They finished the campaign rock bottom of the UAE Premiership to suffer relegation and instead of bouncing straight back, floundered in the second tier, finishing sixth.

It is a malaise that only deepened last season as they finished 10th of 11 teams before finishing rock bottom of the Conference Bottom 5.

They are also currently without a coach after Mike Pugsley departed at the end of the season to return home to Wales.

Rothwell revealed that the club has agreed a deal with UK-based charity Joining Jack to play under their banner for the coming season and be the charity’s Dubai ambassador, but that concern over the club’s future jeopardises this now.

“We are going to play under their banner this season. It’s great to share the message throughout not only our senior men’s rugby squad, but the ladies squad as well as five netball teams,” added Rothwell.

“I’m hopeful that we can secure our position to enable this to happen. We’re giving away the naming rights of the club, like we had previously arranged with Xodus, on a benevolent basis.

“It will give more visibility to the charity as well as maybe help us with the recruitment of players and good will in the region.”


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