Dubai Sharks and Arabian Knights searching for new homes after being kicked out of Dubai Sports City

Matt Jones - Editor 20:48 05/07/2017
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Dubai Sharks in action against Sharjah Wanderers last season

With the Eagles being the brainchild of Dubai Sports City, priority will be given to them in terms of training and playing time in 2017/18, meaning the Arabian Knights and Dubai Sharks, who have been based at DSC for a number of years, are left to look for accommodation elsewhere.

It’s a move that has left a sour taste in the mouths of both UAE Conference clubs and could backfire if things don’t work out, according to Knights head coach John Taimana.

“If you talk to people who are or have been clients of DSC, you’ll find all of them are quite upset,” said Taimana.

“If it doesn’t work out DSC are going to have a big problem as they’ve burned relationships. They’ve told us they won’t be hiring pitches out midweek. The Eagles will have all their time plus the mini and youth academy they’re going to set up.”

Taimana has been at the helm of the senior Knights team for the last five years. And while talk of a DSC-based team has long been proposed, he doesn’t believe enough time and effort has been put in to make sure the Eagles can have a sustainable future.

“You talk to any of the big clubs out here and ask them how long it’s taken them to set up their operations and the DSC team are talking like they’re going to set it up within three months,” added Taimana.

“If that doesn’t work, are we going to get a phone call saying ‘would you like to come back?’. Once we move you’re not going to want to go back.

“We’ve been down this path before and them having their own team. It was meant to have happened three years ago.

“It’s not really bad news. It’s another team playing locally. It’s more funding coming into rugby which is always good.

“They were looking at the Spanish Soccer School and looking at how much money Michel Salgado was making there. That wasn’t something that happened overnight, it took him three years to get where he is.

“They’re honestly going to struggle. I know how difficult it’s been putting together a team. And we’re not even a Premiership team, we’re a Conference team.”

Knights and Sharks' mini and youth teams will still be allowed to train at DSC

Knights and Sharks’ mini and youth teams will still be allowed to train at DSC

Knights and Sharks could have struck a deal where they remained at DSC, but only if players gave up representing their clubs and joined Eagles.

Thankfully, for Taimana, all his senior players chose to remain loyal.

“The first thing I did was check with the men’s squad, I gave them a choice, the same I was giving by DSC,” added Taimana.

“We’re losing our training pitch. You can stay but you have to give up your shirt, name and pay subs to DSC. Not one of them wants to do that, everyone will come with us to wherever the club goes. End of story.”

Both the Knights’ thriving mini and youth sections, as well as that of Sharks, the Dubai Warriors, will still be allowed to train at DSC. And that is a big relief for Taimana.

He added: “The kids are still based at the park which is a good thing. They’ll still train there. At the moment the kids can still train there on Saturday and that’s fantastic, we’ll take that.

“It gives us something to fall back on and if it doesn’t work out they can approach us and ask us to come back.”

The abruptness and lack of consultation with other clubs around the UAE took Sharks chairman Mike Quinn by surprise.

“We had no communication with the UAE Rugby Federation other than the email we received with the new calendar that mentioned Dubai Eagles. You would expect better,” he said.

“The thing I find difficult to comprehend is it’s happened without any consultation, approval of the clubs, it’s just happened. There’s a new club and we have to find a new home.

“Why launch a team without any real consultation, particularly with us and Knights.”

Since coming into existence a decade ago, Sharks have spent the majority of their time playing at DSC, exclusively so for the last four seasons. But Quinn claims several options are open to the club.

“We’re looking for a new place to play. We’ve been told categorically we won’t get any time there. Categorically the timings we would normally hire from them, we can no longer have,” added Quinn.

“You try to develop consistency on and off the field so we’re looking for somewhere where we can base ourselves for the season and this is where home’s going to be.

“We played at DSC for the last four seasons. Prior to that we were there for two seasons in addition to being at Jebel Ali for two seasons. Out of 10 years a s a club, the bulk of our time has been spent there.

“There’s three or four options we’re looking at.”

Quinn said talks had previously been held between Sharks and DSC about the formation of a new team, but with DSC being a business and Sharks a non-profit club, he claims it was never going to work.

“It’s been a goal of Sports City for a number of years, to have their own team,” he said.

“We’ve talked about forming a relationship with them and a rugby club with them. The whole ethos of them and how they run their business and how we run our club, not for profit, don’t match. They decided there’s nothing to talk to us about anymore and that’s it.

“They’ve got to run a business as they see fit. Being bitter towards them is not helpful to anybody.

“It’s going to be far more difficult (for us). It certainly will have a knock-on effect because money from subscriptions won’t be enough to fund three teams, it will make things very difficult.”

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