Dubai: The UAE Football Association (UAE FA) is in no hurry to bring back football fans into stadiums for the ongoing matches of the Arabian Gulf League, the Arabian Gulf Cup and other competitions.
Speaking at the first-ever Media Forum of the UAE Pro League, Walid Al Hossani, CEO of the UAE Pro League, insisted that the organisers are in no hurry to get fans back into the grounds due to the prevailing global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Believe me when I say that the current situation is hugely concerning for everyone. The number of cases would have been really high if we had gone ahead with fans getting into the stadiums this season,” Al Hossani told media on Wednesday. “This is not a decision that can be taken by us alone. We need the necessary approvals from the concerned authorities. So, let me assure you that no specific date has been set so far for the return of fans into the stadium. We are constantly coordinating with the authorities to have the fans back, but then we all have to understand that it is not entirely our decision.”
This weekend will see the seventh round matches of the AG League being held. So far, the UAE Pro League has opted to organise matches behind closed doors with no fans in attendance. “I think it all depends on the updates of the number of cases not just in the country, but all around the world. We are negotiating with the authorities even though we feel we are ready to have the fans inside to watch the matches. But once again, it is all left up to the health and medical authorities in the UAE and our wise leaders,” Al Hossani said.
All matches are currently being held in two time windows with the early kick-off at 6pm followed by the late kick-off games at 9pm. “We have had requests from everyone to change these times as the late kick-offs are late indeed. But then, such decisions are not left up to us but in the hands of the television rights-holder. In fact, the television rights-holder has asked us for an hour in-between the early and late games,” Al Hossani said. “We have many queries with regards to a change in match timings, but once again, this decision needs to be in consultation with the right-holders. We agreed to have an hour in-between matches to avoid a clash between viewer rates. Now that it has been pointed out, we will have another meeting and discuss this further.”
Al Hossani expressed happiness over the actual playing time achieved by clubs during the ongoing AGL. Last season’s peak time was 51.44 minutes per match, while the previous season witnessed just 48.48 minutes actual playing time during the season.
“The average playing time this season is 49.46 minutes, which is OK considering the fact that players were unable to train and reach their peak technical level. But that doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to improve on this in due course of time,” he said.
The football official further related that the UAE FA may go ahead with the launch of a loyalty credit card to reward regular fans and followers of UAE football. “We are in an advanced stage to have a card offering fans discounts at various clubs and retail outlets. We already have partnerships with Etisalat, Emirates Airline and Audi, but now we will need to go ahead with these discussions and firm up a loyalty card as this will help us attract more fans to out league,” Al Hossani said.