HSBC on Friday renewed their sponsorship of UAE Rugby’s Player Pathway Programme (PPP) for a further 3 years, while Land Rover was also unveiled as the programme’s co-principal partner.
Both HSBC and Land Rover will look to bolster UAE Rugby’s all-Emirati grass-roots rugby development programme.
Launched in 2012, the UAE Rugby’s PPP is overseen by three regional development officers, to over 30 National schools and has so far reached over 6,800 Emirati children across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai.
UAE Rugby now hope to continue growing the programme in the Emirates they are currently operating in, while expanding into Northern Emirates where they see “a significant opportunity for growth”.
”We are very grateful to HSBC for the support and commitment they have shown for the past three years and, collectively, we have been rewarded through the efforts of the programme by seeing a number of PPP players progress to the next development level – the Shaheen Development Programme,” said Qais Al Dhalai, secretary general of UAE Rugby.
— UAE Rugby Federation (@uaerugby) December 4, 2015
“We are extremely excited that Land Rover have chosen to align with UAE Rugby’s Emirati grass roots programme, as their combined support with HSBC allows us to grow the programme in existing Emirates and take the programme into the Northern Emirates and work toward our 2017 goal of 9,000 Emirati children actively playing rugby at school level, and subsequently increase the number of Emirati players moving through our development levels.”
Supporting the in-school programme, the PPP conducts up to ten annual rugby festivals. The highlight of those festivals is the National Schools tournament, where eight Emirati schools compete on the Saturday of the annual Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby 7’s.
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The Conquistadors will be looking to claim a little piece of the desert as their own this weekend as they set their sights on the Gulf Men’s Social competition.
The team has been scrambled together at the last minute after initially being told there was no room for them, and will be raising money for the Mike Ballard Foundation.
Ballard, a former Abu Dhabi Harlequins player, suffered a severe spinal cord injury whilst playing for Quins against Jebel Ali Dragons in the West Asia Club Championship final in 2014.
The American teacher has since made excellent progress in his rehabilitation and returned to the UAE, taking up a place at his old school, the New England Centre for Children with Autism.
“It’s a massive call from Mike to return to Abu Dhabi and get on with life but it’s testament to his character,” said Mike Ballard Foundation co-founder Ed Lewsey.
“We are here to support Mike and initiatives like the Conquistadors really help Mike with some hefty ongoing medical costs.”
“Getting together the team was ridiculous,” said Winston Cowie, the team’s player-coach.
“In the space of a week, we had guys queuing up to play and support Mike.
“We have managed to get together some of the best players to ever play rugby in the Gulf. Most of the major teams are represented – it’s a Gulf rugby community story.”