Clubs paying fans defended by member of the league's executive committee

A typical rate for a "fan for hire" is Dh50, with boys of 12 or younger generally paid Dh25. Clubs then may reward supporters a Dh25 bonus for singing, clapping and chanting.

Fans cheer at Pro League match between Al Ain and Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National
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The practice of Pro League clubs paying fans to attend matches has been defended by a member of the league's executive committee as the extension of "a culture where we are known to be very hospitable and charitable".
Conversations with league officials indicate that the typical rate for a "fan for hire" is Dh50, with boys of 12 or younger generally paid Dh25.
Most fans, however, are eligible for bonuses of Dh25 or more if they are adjudged to have performed admirably, singing and clapping and chanting throughout the match.
The practice certainly is not typical among the leading national leagues in the Asian Football Confederation, such as those in Japan and South Korea, where crowds of tens of thousands pay their way into the grounds.
That may also be the case for the UAE in the future but, for now, the traditional manner of encouraging fans to attend holds sway.
"We need to realise the short history of football companies in the UAE," said Abdullah Al Junaibi, member of the league's executive committee.
"It was just four or five years ago that they transformed themselves into football companies. However, the mentality and mindset of their fans have perhaps not been transformed completely.
"Previously, as a social club, the football team was seen as part of the extended family of the fans. And in this case, especially in our culture, where we are known to be very hospitable and charitable to our families and relatives, clubs and fans alike do not think that it is right for fans to be paying for tickets.
"Instead, clubs feel that, as part of the family, when they invite fans to come to their home, the club, who are acting like the host, have to treat the fans in the right way."
It is believed that all of the "big" clubs in the country attract the young men who sit in the main stand, across from the VIP areas, by giving them cash to attend. In some cases, they are also given food and drink, as well as transportation to and from the match.
At Al Ain, who have a tradition of leading the country in attendance, "supervisors" are tasked to comb the city looking for fans, particularly in the suburban areas where people from Yemen, Oman and Iran, et al, live.
The supervisors, in combination with the club's band, train the recruits in the club's songs and chants. The fans are advised by them to be in the stadium 45 minutes before kick off and ready to sing and chant and clap until the end of the match.
"I have been going to Al Ain FC games with my friends for three years," said Haroon Mohammed.
"Why not? We are treated well, we enjoy the games, have fun and at the end of the day get Dh50, which is good pocket money for us."
Mohammed Sawali, one of the Al Ain "fan supervisors" said a team executive provides the money to pay to fans and turns it over to the band leader. "He then gives us [the supervisors] the money and we distribute it to the fans one by one, and once a fan is paid, we take away his club card so there is no cheating involved.
"The money is counted before it is given to us, just to be safe that no one takes any extra money or tries to take advantage of the club executives."
Ali Al Nuaimi, the spokesman for Al Jazira, who set the league attendance record for a single game (36,241), as well as a season (15,922, on average), in 2010/11, said that "not all fans are paid" to see the Abu Dhabi club play.
However, he added: "We have a band who sings for the team during the games, and in order for them to do so, they require about 500 or 1,000 or 1,500 fans, depending on the matches, to sing and clap and support the team.
"We pay the bands and they distribute some money to fans who are invited to clap as a reward, and also water, juice and sandwiches are given to them.
"This is not for us to fill the stadium, but to change the attitude of the fans. We want the matches to be an entertaining experience for the fans and for them to enjoy other activities, as well."
A top club official said paying fans is not limited to the big clubs.
"I believe that all clubs have fans who are paid to attend, and more so the small clubs."
It is not clear if clubs playing in neighbouring nations also pay fans to attend, but the official said he thought not. "Saudi Arabia have a good product and plenty of people to attend, and Qatar has no one in stands," he said. "This may be unique to the country."