ABU DHABI // Leading UAE football clubs have until now been heavily reliant on government funding. That financial assistance is due to be phased out in 2013 so Pro League officials are already investigating ways of increasing revenue. Unlike their counterparts in the big European leagues, the clubs here do not generate much income through the turnstiles so maximising marketing and sponsorship is a priority.
Stanislaus Dsousa is finance director at Al Wahda, last season's league champions, and he spoke of ambitious projects currently underway to capitalise on the club's city centre location in the capital. Construction is well advanced on a second Al Wahda Mall to go alongside the existing successful shopping centre, while an adjacent hotel and two apartment blocks are also planned to be in use soon on the club's property.
"We are also looking at several other ways to bring in funds," said Dsousa. "We don't have official merchandising at the moment," he said. "That's one of the areas we are looking at. You will see people here wearing replica shirts but they are not real ones. There is a market for imitation kits. Perhaps the game of football here needs a culture change. Spectator loyalty to their respective clubs needs to develop.
"We are also thinking about a food and beverage outlet at the ground, but you have to ascertain first of all whether it is worth it and whether the fans will use it. "We have not got round to thinking about a match day programme yet but maybe that is something that will be welcomed in future seasons." Dsousa is as concerned as any Pro League club official about the poor crowds at matches. "We are doing everything we can to attract them here," he said. "Maybe it is a lack of awareness in the community, particularly the expats, but maybe it's just the mentality here. The local fans prefer to watch the games on TV rather than sweat it out in the stadia."