Coronavirus: Dubai Sports Council insist local events 'should continue as usual'

Events with 'international participation' will need confirmation by the council to go ahead

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 28 FEBRUARY 2020. Rugby league. West Asia Premiership: Dubai Hurricanes v Jebel Ali Dragons at the Sevens Rugby grpund. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Paul Radley. Section: Sport.
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Dubai Sports Council have issued a statement clarifying that normal sporting activities “should continue as usual”.

Earlier in the day it had been intimated all events in the city might be postponed until the end of March.

A variety of sports providers and associations were sent a circular late Thursday morning asking them to suspend their activities, as part of the procedure to combat the spread of coronavirus.

However, at 5pm another message was sent saying that the first circular related to those “events with international participation”, and that other activities could proceed.

“In clarification of our earlier circular, you are kindly requested for activities held by your esteemed entity for the rest of March to review those events with international participation and consult with the Sports Council for confirmation that it will take place,” the Sports Council wrote.

“All other normal sporting activities should continue as usual.”

That message struck a different tone to the one earlier, which left a variety of sports clubs, associations and academies believing they would have to cease operations until the end of the month.

“Due to the precautionary measures taken related to the spread of the Covid-19 [coronavirus] and in order to ensure safety, security and public health, you are kindly-requested to postpone all sports-related activities until the end of March 2020,” the statement read.

Many sports set about cancelling or postponing their forthcoming plans on Thursday afternoon. Just as the second message was being sent, the UAE Rugby Federation was sending out a notice to their participants.

“Pursuant to the UAERF board of directors’ decision amid the Covid-19 virus outbreak, in alignment with the global and nationwide health and safety precautions putting players’ safety and welfare at utmost priority, the following applies with immediate effect,” the federation wrote.

“Cessation of all rugby activities/academies for all age-groups with immediate effect until March 31. Resuming activities will be considered only following any update from higher governing authorities.”

Whether that decision will remain, given the later clarification by the Sports Council, remains to be seen.

The statement released by the UAE Rugby Federation announcing the "cessation of all rugby activities". 

The domestic season still has its final regular league matches to finish, as well as two grand finals to play.

It is unclear whether the UAE Premiership final, on March 13, and the West Asia Premiership final a week later, will go ahead as planned, or at later dates, if at all.

“We would be heartbroken if the season was stopped short on us, having been working for it since June,” said Mike Wernham, the coach whose Dubai Hurricanes side are due to play Dubai Exiles in the UAE final.

“We are incredibly excited about the position we are in.”

Earlier in the week, the Arabian Gulf League had announced they would continue football matches, but fans would not be permitted to attend.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Fifa said they are proposing to postpone forthcoming World Cup qualifiers in Asia.

UAE are due to host Malaysia on March 26, before travelling to Indonesia for a fixture on March 31.

The UAE national football team are due to host Malaysia on March 26 but Fifa is proposing a postponement to upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Courtesy UAE FA

“For both Fifa and the AFC, the well-being and health of all individuals involved in football matches remains the highest priority,” Fifa wrote in a statement.

“As such, a formal proposal to postpone upcoming matches in the Asian Fifa World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers will now be shared with the relevant member associations.”

Football academies in the city have already alerted parents to the fact they will cease operations until the end of the month.

The highest profile event this month is the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race, which is scheduled for March 28.

Friday’s Jebel Ali race meeting will go ahead, but fans will also not be allowed to enter.

“The management of Jebel Ali Race Course announces, with regret, that in accordance with the directive received, it has been decided that entry to the [race meeting] will be restricted to horse connections, sponsors and officials, including accredited media,” a statement read.

Cricket events across the city are also set to cease until the end of the month.

“The notice was sent to all the venues as well, so the venues are closed, and we have to respect that, also,” a Dubai Cricket Council spokesman said.

“We had loads of things planned. There are finals that were scheduled, and league games, but all will have to be postponed. Hopefully we will be able to start again as soon as we can.”

Dubai - November 21, 2008: Horses leave the starting gate during the second race at Jebel Ali Race Course in Dubai November 21, 2008. It was the first race day of the season. (Jeff Topping/The National) *** Local Caption ***  JT001-1121-HORSE RACE 7F8Q6136.jpgJT001-1121-HORSE RACE 7F8Q6136.jpg