20IMGfalaknaz1 / 20th Aug 2000 / (BUSINESS) Mohammed A. R. Falaknaz, Vice President of Falaknaz Sports Group, during his interview in Falaknaz Group Office Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai - GN Pic by Asghar Khan

DUBAI UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) Chairman Mohammad Falaknaz hailed the decision of International Rugby Board approving the UAERF as a Full Member Union.

“This is a very happy moment for us and we have been waiting for this for such a long time,” Falaknaz said.

“Even though it was fast tracked for us, it took a lot of hard work to gain the full membership. We have crossed a lot of milestones since its inception,” he added.

The IRB approved its application during its recent meeting in Dublin. The UAERF became an Associate Member of the IRB earlier this year and has been fast-tracked through to Full Membership following significant advances.

“I don’t think it has ever happened for an Union to get that thing in such a short time. It’s a challenge and we have given them all the reasons to consider our application and they couldn’t say no to us.

“We have contributed a lot of things for the growth of Rugby in the region,” noted Falaknaz.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “We are delighted to be welcoming UAE as a Full Member of the IRB. These are very exciting times for our sport with unprecedented growth and interest around the world. Today’s announcement certainly underlines Rugby’s ability to reach out to new communities and countries in every region.”

“As home to 60 per cent of the global population and 80 per cent of the world’s young people, Asia is a strategically important region for the IRB. Working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) we are currently investing over US$3 million annually in development, high performance and tournament programmes across the region and we will ensure that UAE has the structures in place to flourish and grow on the world stage.”

The IRB acknowledged the Federations active participation in ARFU events and that they have met the IRB criteria for a Full Member. They also acknowledged that the Union is a well-structured organisation with full-time administrators.

It has 1,300 adult licensed players and a further 4,600 underage players. At domestic level, UAERF runs a seven-team, annual domestic 15-a-side premiership and an eight-team conference competition.

UAE Rugby’s national 15-a-side team played in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5, finishing third in 2011 and the Federation has also implemented and hosted the grass-roots XV’s international tournament, the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations. The all-Emirati development team, UAE Shaheen participated in all legs of the HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series where they won the Plate Competition in the HSBC Bangkok Sevens. Since the 2012 Annual Meeting of IRB Council, the UAE Under-19 national team has participated in an ARFU Division 3 tournament and, through this tournament was promoted to Division 2 in 2013.

UAE Rugby continues to fulfill their commitment to ‘Growing the Game’ through qualifying more coaches and referees as well as increasing participation of young people with an emphasis on our Emirati youth. They now employ three full time Rugby Development Officers with a specific brief to establish the game in 30 schools across all Emirates and to date they are moving quickly towards this goal with over 1800 youths playing rugby on a weekly basis.

Falaknaz said he was not disappointed that they could not field a team in the Dubai Rugby Sevens. “We decided to qualify on merit and we wanted to qualify to be invited to this competition. We are developing our sides and we have two sides and we are adding another team coming out of school programmes. We have so many things in our agenda we want to reach and accomplish. We already have works towards that,” he added.

CEO Ian Bremner while welcoming the decision said: “It gives full access to IRB tournaments and all IRB services. Everybody has to earn a membership in the IRB which is a tough one. We have done that and that does not mean we sit on the laurels.

“We have done the right things particularly in growing the game. But now it does not take away the challenges we are left with. We have the right people and we are sure we can take it to another level now.”