While on the field rugby in the UAE is standing tall, the game is seemingly being brought to its knees off it – yet Jebel Ali Dragons are refreshingly bucking the recent depressing trend.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins announced earlier this month that the loss of backing from sponsors Etihad Airways leaves them facing a Dh5000,000 shortfall ahead of the new season. The exciting emergence of Dubai Sports City-based Dubai Eagles nevertheless leaves Arabian Knights and Dubai Sharks searching for a new home. And Dubai Wasps are on the cusp of folding due to financial and recruitment struggles.
Yet on the outskirts of Dubai, Dragons are approaching the new season with optimism. Not just because of a resurgence on the field under Henry Paul last season. But also because they are in rude health behind the scenes too.
Dragons announced on Monday that head sponsor Hesco, providers of military-defence barriers, have signed a five-year, seven figure sponsorship deal with the club.
Southern hemisphere rugby-themed restaurant Nezeaussie Grill have also come on board as a new sponsor for 2017/18 while Ro3 and First Resort Global Recruitment continue their support too.
“We are happy that we have managed to secure long term sponsors in an environment that seems to be quite desperate,” said Dragons chairman Stuart Quinn.
“Allowing us to continue to supply a great rugby product, world class coaching, superb facilities and all the other things that traditionally occur in rugby clubs is only good for rugby in the region.
“It’s great that we are secure but it’s incredibly sad to hear that some clubs are struggling, it’s helping no-one having clubs threaten to close.”
Whereas the emergence of Eagles this summer means several clubs in Dubai fear approaches for their players with the likes of free gym membership at DSC, Quinn says Dragons have retained most of their players.
“I think it comes down to smart decision making in the areas that are costing clubs and a very loyal player base,” he said.
“We have not committed to a mini and youth set-up which takes a lot of pressure off volunteers and cash flow so we can concentrate on other revenue streams. These clubs are businesses now, we have to treat them as such.”
JA Resorts and Hotels hold the naming rights to Dragons and for that the club receives facility support from them which they are looking to grow now that they have just added plush new 4G pitches and a new clubhouse for players and supporters to enjoy after games.
Quinn added: “JACOE have laid a new 4G pitch and a wonderful new grass pitch with state of the art floodlights along with a new clubhouse to call home is nothing short of fantastic. We are committed to helping them recoup that investment with contributions to F&B on match days.
“Uncertainty is never something a sponsor wants to hear. The relationship that we have fostered with JA Resorts has undoubtedly led us to where we are today. That decision to move away from the previous situation is paying dividends now.
“Having a head sponsor like Hesco so involved in the club on a day to day level has only strengthened that. Staying true to being an amateur club with big ambitions has been key.”