Pro League chief Waleed Al Hosani outlines plans to safely start UAE football season

Arabian Gulf Cup matches kick off new campaign, with AGL matches to begin on September 9

UAE Pro League chief executive Waleed Al Hosani speaks at the Rixos Saadiyat Island. Courtesy UAE Pro League
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UAE Pro League chief executive officer Waleed Al Hosani is confident of a “promising start” to the season when it gets underway with the Arabian Gulf Cup on Thursday.

The 2019/20 UAE football season was cancelled in mid-June having been suspended since March following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

After a majority 8-6 vote by Arabian Gulf League clubs, the decision was made not to award the league title to leaders Shabab Al Ahli, while Hatta and Fujairah in the bottom two places were saved from relegation, essentially null and voiding the season.

The new campaign begins this weekend, with Kalba at home to Al Jazira, Shabab Al Ahli hosting Al Dhafra at Rashid stadium, and Ajman travelling to Fujairah on the opening day.

On Friday, Hatta host Baniyas, Khorfakkan take the long journey to Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed stadium and Al Wahda at home Al Wasl.

The Arabian Gulf League fixtures follow the Cup games, with two fixtures slated for September 9: Shabab Al Ahli travel to Kalba and Wahda host Hatta at the Al Nahyan stadium.

"We need to make the competition happen despite the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic," Al Hosani told The National during the signing ceremony of an MOU with the Rixos Saadiyat Island at the hotel on Tuesday.

“We are very fortunate as our government has done an incredible job to contain the situation and provide us the prospect of starting the season on time, of course with the protocols of the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority."

According to Al Hosani, the Pro League will use around 300 personnel on match days.

“We have done everything that needs to be done in compliance with government protocols,” he said. “I have full confidence in my team and our partners, and you will see a promising start to the season.

“The obstacles we had to overcome is mostly to do with the pandemic and the consequences for the procedures, protocols and limit the number of people were some of them.

“Based on the international norms in football, we have come up with a unique protocol that will help us to conduct the matches.”

Games will take place behind closed doors, while the pre-match and post-match conferences will be conducted remotely.

“We will work closely with the health authorities to asses and evaluate the situation time and again until they decide it’s safe to allow spectators into the stadium,” Al Hosani said.

“Meanwhile, we will do virtual effects and sound on TV for the games to be more attractive for the fans.

“The pandemic, we must understand, has not only affected football but all other sports, as well as life in itself. The UAE is still one of the safest places.”