Qais Al Dhalai has announced he is running for the Asia Rugby presidency, admitting he feels it is a “natural progression” having served as the governing body’s secretary general since December 2015.
Making the game more of a level playing field and shining a spotlight on the smaller Asian nations is one of Al Dhalai’s major goals as he
launched his bid on Wednesday to replace Japan’s Koji Tokumasu, who has announced he will not be running for another two-year term.
Al Dhalai also hopes to continue the good work of World Rugby’s Asia One Million programme – an idea he launched – that aims to get one million people on the continent involved in rugby by the time Japan hosts the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“The current president has already said he will not stand again and, to be honest, I think Asia Rugby needs some new blood to drive the
Organisation forwrd,” Al Dhalai, also the UAE Rugby Federation secretary general, told Sport360.
“I feel it is a natural step for me to take. I have been through the ranks. In 2013 I was elected as a committee member. That was until December 2015, then I was elected as a secretary general. It is always a term that is for two years so that ends in November.
“I sit on the World Cup 2019 steering committee with Brett Gosper (World Rugby CEO) and others. I’m already at that level so I thought this was a natural progression.”
Al Dhalai was applauded by Gosper in 2015 for his role in developing rugby in the UAE and beyond. Just last year he travelled to Palestine to help establish the game there, and it is the smaller countries that have perhaps never played the game before or been marginalised that Al Dhalai hopes to help the most.
“Thailand, Bangladesh, Guam, Macau, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Jordan. They all deserve more exposure,” added Al Dhalai.
“In August 2016 I visited Palestine. It was the first time they had played rugby. I’m working with the Vietnam National Olympic Committee to establish a national governing body.
“And also in Cambodia. It used to be an Asia Rugby member but it was expelled two years ago. I’m working with them to get them back, I’m going to the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur to meet them and explore opportunities.
“One of the strategic pillars I’m pursuing is to add more member nations to the Asia Rugby family. We currently stand at 30. The Asian Football Confederation has 45. Our strategic objective in Asia Rugby is to reach 36 by the time the World Cup is held in 2019.
“I’m working with Vietnam, Iraq, Palestine, Cambodia. I wish to help the smaller unions or countries who don’t have a national governing body, to establish one.
“My idea is to spread out the game. It’s not healthy just to have the big nations playing like Japan and Hong Kong.”
Al Dhalai said he was not aware of any possible opponents he might be running against. The election will take place on November 19 in Hong Kong.
If he were to get elected, Al Dhalai could still remain in post with the UAE RF.
Al Dhalai said he had been encouraged to launch his bid by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai.
“Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid is always encouraging the Emiratis to be leaders in our fields and to be number one. One of my drivers is to follow what our leaders are encouraging us to do,” added Al Dhalai.
“I have decided to run because I am sure I can bring change and dreams to reality for Asia Rugby. A lot of member unions are struggling in terms of financial sustainability, participation and development.
“One of my top priorities is to continue the success of Asia One Million. Asia One Million, which has received backing from World Rugby, launched it in 2015. It aims to increase participation in the region by one million, whether that’s players, referees or administrators.
“The first year ended a month ago and it has been very successful – we have 3000,000 new participants and the aim is by the World Cup in 2019 we will have one million.
“Second is to source sponsorship for Asia Rugby. We don’t have one so that’s one of my top priorities which will help the member unions to have a chance to play.
“It’s my vision and I think the region will flourish because of it. I have good faith and intention. The ultimate goal is to have an evolutionary vision for Asia Rugby in this crucial time.”
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