Rugby Dubai Knights Eagles
(From left) Jeff O’Brien, Louise Palmer, Sean Carey, Qais Al Dhalai and Vijay Sajjanhar at the official announcement at the DSC offices, on Wednesday. Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: Rugby in the UAE stands to benefit following the merger of the Dubai Eagles and Arabian Knights rugby clubs. The merger of the two clubs was unveiled at the Sports Village by Vijay Sajjanhar, CFO, Dubai Sports City, in the presence of Louise Palmer, Chairperson and Founder of Arabian Knights, Sean Carey, Director of Rugby Dubai Eagles alongside Jeff O’Brien of Dubai Sports City and Qais Al Dhalai, General Secretary of UAE Rugby Federation.

Founded in 2008 by Louise Palmer and her late husband Neil, the Arabian Knights have approximately 350 members actively involved from their base at Dubai Sports City Sports Park, since 2011. Dubai Eagles, on the other hand, can boast of around 200 active members despite being founded in 2016.

“The idea is to grow the game at all levels,” Palmer told Gulf News. “I don’t play rugby, but I have a passion for the sport. After ten years of the Arabian Knights it was time to look at stability while continuing the legacy of this club.”

Louise Palmer (left) and Sean Carey explain the sense behind bringing the two rugby clubs together. Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Carey — who will look after the development of the sport at the new club — was pleased to bring the bodies together while creating a club that will offer the best rugby experience in the region to players of all ages and skill levels. “This tie-up is a natural fit, particularly as Dubai Sports City is committed to growing the game of rugby and ensuring the Sports Park is the venue of choice for community rugby,” Carey said.

The new club, which has been re-named Dubai Knights Eagles, will feature the green and orange from each respective club. The new club will compete in all levels of UAERF leagues and have a full complement of mini and youth players. The club members will have the advantage of the social elements of the Sports Park such as the club rooms, access to gymnasiums, running track and indoor facilities creating a unique experience for the all members, both new and old.

The consolidation of the two clubs is meant to create the third largest club in the region. “This move speaks loudly in regards to the commitment of Dubai Sports City to rugby in the UAE. At Dubai Sports City we know that sport has the power to bring individuals and cultures together and this amalgamation shows that rugby has a long-term home in the heart of the community for players of all ages and skills,” Sajjanhar said.

“Many rugby clubs are under pressure financially in today’s market and these type of mergers are seen as a positive step in the maturation of the rugby club business in the UAE. We see this as a positive step and one that augers well for the future.”