A revised 2017/18 calendar has been sent to rugby clubs in the UAE due to the possibility of Doha playing in next season’s West Asia Premiership.
Due to the ongoing Qatar boycott involving several Gulf nations, including the UAE, due to alleged links to terrorism, it was widely believed that Doha would not compete in any cross-border competitions with clubs from the Emirates, as well as Bahrain, this coming season.
The UAE Rugby Federation released an initial list of dates for its competitions next season on July 1, with Alex Natera’s Doha a notable omission.
Newly-formed Dubai Eagles, based at Dubai Sports City, were granted entry into both the UAE Premiership and West Asia Premiership. But it has since emerged that talks have been held that could see the Qataris compete by playing their matches at a neutral venue – with Muscat the most likely option.
And Asia Rugby development consultant Ghaith Jalajel confirmed on Saturday that a revised rugby calendar has been sent to all UAE clubs with Doha included in the fixture list.
“It is a possibility we looked at and have consulted clubs about playing games at a neutral venue,” said Jalajel.
“We are still to come to a decision so I’m not sure whether this will go ahead. A draft fixtures list has been sent today to the clubs and we should be able to review and confirm all the fixtures by the end of this week or early next week.”
Doha were runners-up to West Asia Premiership champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins last season and have been a fixture of Gulf rugby for many years.
And Jalajel said their continued involvement is something that has received the backing of the majority of opponents.
“I would say everyone, all the clubs in the UAE, wanted Doha in the competition next year,” he added.
“It’s just a matter of feasibility and whether they can participate, in terms of cost and travel time to the neutral venue.”
The possibility of Doha being allowed to compete next season had been met with mixed reactions among the UAE rugby community last week.
The cost of travelling to Doha or Muscat has been raised as a concern, while some clubs feel it would extend an already swollen fixture list.