Sport | Rugby

New home for Dubai Exiles on anvil

Work on a new rugby stadium could begin after next year's Sevens and be ready in time for the 2009 IRB World Cup.

  • By Steve Hill, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:00 December 9, 2006
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: England in action against Scotland during the Sevens in a match they won 38-0. MeganHirons/Gulf News
  • Work on a new rugby stadium could begin after next year's Sevens and be ready in time for the 2009 IRB World Cup.
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Plans are being drawn up for a 5,000-seat permanent structure at the Dubai Exiles around which temporary stands could be added on for the popular annual Emirates Airline Sevens.

Gary Chapman, President Group Services and Dnata, Emirates Group, revealed that feasibility studies and costings are now being carried out into the construction of "a state-of-the-art" stand which would also accommodate upgraded changing rooms and facilities for the event.

It would replace the structure that currently sits between the two main pitches at the Exiles and which houses the main block of dressing rooms as well as medical facilities. Capacity at the event could increase to 35-37,000 people.

Currently, a massive temporary stadium capable of seating 32,500 and featuring more than 150 km of scaffolding is built each year specially for the sevens, and then taken down immediately after the final match is finished.

If given the go-ahead by planners, and subject to finances, work would start on the new structure immediately after next year's event and be complete in time for the 2008 sevens and the 2009 IRB Sevens World Cup, should Dubai win the six-way race to stage the tournament.

Chapman said that the project would be a three-way partnership among the Exiles, the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union and Emirates. "It would provide a legacy for rugby," he said. "And I think it would be good for the Exiles and for the Arabian Gulf."

The decision over the hosting of the 2009 tournament will be announced in April. And Chapman believes that Dubai's bid has been enhanced by Saturday's torrential rain which swamped the Exiles ground and left the majority of spectators soaked.

He said: "I think it's helped. It's shown that we can deal with the unexpected. It's not a perfect world out there. Some people said we should have planned for the rain, but the economies of trying to deal with that and make facilities rain-proof are not feasible.

"We did show that we have a team that was able to manage a very difficult situation and adapt, and I'm certainly optimistic about 2009. Other organisations are bidding, but we have to be serious contenders."

Chapman added that initial reaction to last weekend's extraordinary climatic conditions had been overwhelmingly positive.

He said: "I don't think anyone imagined it was going to be as wet as it was but the tournament coped well and the spectators were absolutely fantastic.

"People rallied around and enjoyed the spirit of the day, while the quality of the rugby was fantastic. Those who stayed were the ones who really wanted to watch the games although one thing that did work against us was that a lot of people did leave after England lost to South Africa (in the semifinals).

"I don't think we could have done any better than we did."

Gulf News