Al Ahli football club sign ground-breaking agreement with Spain’s La Liga through 2018

Two-year deal – a first-of-its-kind between the Spanish top division and a club outside the country – primarily a knowledge-sharing exercise between the respective parties, writes John McAuley.

MADRID // Al Ahli have confirmed a ground-breaking partnership with La Liga, the first agreement between the Spanish top flight and a club outside the country.

The six-time UAE champions, who currently lead the Arabian Gulf League, announced a two-year deal on Monday at La Liga’s headquarters in Madrid, with the collaboration primarily a knowledge-sharing exercise between the respective parties.

It will begin in earnest in May, with a series of workshops taking place monthly or bimonthly, with some open to other clubs and those involved in football within the UAE. At present, the agreement does not facilitate friendlies between Ahli and Spain’s top-tier clubs, but will involve Ahli’s academy sides competing in tournaments organised worldwide by La Liga.

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“In recent history, our football team has continuously set our place as the top contender in Dubai and the UAE,” said Abdullah Al Naboodah, the Ahli chairman. “Now with this partnership with La Liga, our club’s management will continue to shine and further solidify our position in the UAE, from every club-related aspect. We’re proud to bring a partnership of this magnitude to the UAE, and to lead in a new standard of football management.

“Our idea is to improve ourselves. We want to see a lot of improvement in many ways, whether it’s the management side, facilities side, game-day management. La Liga’s used to doing all these things. We want to see how they do it and how to make it work for us.

“La Liga is such a big organisation that we can learn a lot from them. We’re really excited about it.”

Ahmed Khalifa, the Ahli CEO, said Ahli first approached La Liga approximately two months ago and that negotiations were straightforward. He stressed La Liga will not receive any financial revenue from Ahli.

“We’re very honoured not only to be the first in the UAE, but also the world,” Khalifa said. “Everybody knows La Liga is one of the best entities operating a league in the world and we’re sure they have many good practices that can be implemented in the UAE.

“At Ahli, we’re always looking to be at the top, to be leaders and be ahead of everybody. We’re eight years into our professional era, but we’re still very far from levels in European leagues. With this agreement, we’ll have a good chance to teach the club how to run a football business from different areas. This will open many doors in La Liga for Al Ahli.”

La Liga already boasts significant links with the UAE, dating back to 2013, when it opened offices in Dubai – its first permanent base outside Spain. Last June, La Liga signed a three-year agreement with the Pro League Committee, its UAE equivalent, and last month announced plans to launch its inaugural High Performance Centre in Dubai.

Javier Tebas, the La Liga president, said the new partnership will help the organisation further build its brand in the UAE, while also expedite Ahli’s development.

“One of our goals was to be part of UAE’s football,” Tebas said. “It’s an honour to have reached this agreement with such an important team as Al Ahli, which has a short history, but a very successful one. We hope that sharing our knowledge about management will help Al Ahli continue being the best team in the UAE.”

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