Coronavirus: how UAE sports are being affected by the Covid-19 outbreak

The events that have been cancelled or postponed and those taking place behind closed doors

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: John McAuley: The game between Sharjah and Al Ain in the PresidentÕs Cup semi-final is played behind closed doors as the UAE FA ruled that matches had to be played without fans as a precautionary measure because of the coronavirus. Tuesday, March 10th, 2020. Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The UAE sports calendar is becoming increasingly disrupted because of the coronavirus situation.

Although Dubai Sports Council has not yet issued an official directive to cease activities, many of the city's largest grassroots sports providers have suspended their operations for children.

At the weekend, Abu Dhabi Sports Council announced the suspension of all sports events in the emirate as per Ministry of Health and Prevention advice.

But regular training and competitions for participants over the age of 12 can continue, pending guidance from the individual sports federations.

Events deemed “imperative” can also go ahead as scheduled, albeit without any supporters in attendance.

This is how some of the major sports in the country are affected.


Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 10, 2019: UAE's Ali Mabkhout scores during the Qatar 2022 world cup qualifier between The UAE and Indonesia. Thursday 10th of October. Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Fifa postponed Asian World Cup qualifying matches in March and June.

The UAE had been due to face Malaysia in Dubai on March 26 and then travel to Indonesia five days later.

They were set to round off Group G with home matches against Thailand and Vietnam at the start of June.

Fifa announced the decision to postpone that schedule on Monday.

“Following consultation with Asia’s member associations, Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation have agreed to postpone the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the World Cup Qatar 2022,” Fifa said.

Fifa said "the matches could still go ahead if the member associations due to play each other mutually agree, subject to prior approval from both Fifa and the AFC".

New dates for the rearranged matches have yet to be announced, but it seems likely they will be played at some point in September, October and November.

The national team are still likely to meet on March 23, to work with new manager Ivan Jovanovic.

The FA are considering arranging a friendly during the planned training camp, should it go ahead.

Domestic matches have been continuing across the country, although they will be played behind closed doors until further notice.

Four UAE clubs involved in the Asian Champions League - Sharjah, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Al Wahda and Al Ain - had their third group matches postponed.


ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , October 22  – 2019 :- Zahoor Khan of UAE bowling during the World Cup T20 Qualifiers between UAE vs Jersey held at Tolerance Oval cricket ground in Abu Dhabi.  ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For Sports. Story by Paul

The UAE team are scheduled to play the next leg of the Cricket World Cup League Two campaign in Lauderhill in Florida.

The series comprises four one-day internationals, two each against the US and Scotland, starting on April 1.

No formal announcement has been made, but it seems unlikely to tour will go ahead.

On Tuesday, a state of emergency was announced in Broward County, which is the area in which the matches are due to take place, after a fourth case of coronavirus was confirmed there.

Three of the four cases are associated with Port Everglades, a cruise terminal that is 16 kilometres from Broward County Stadium, where the matches are scheduled to take place.

Horse racing

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , Mar 7 – 2020 :- Tadhg O’Shea  (no 10) guides Wafy  (IRE)  to win the 2nd horse race Mahab Al Shimaal, 1200m Dirt during the Super Saturday meeting at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Super Saturday is the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story by Amith

The most high-profile event in UAE sport this month is the Dubai World Cup.

The 25th anniversary meeting is set for March 28, and preparations for it are proceeding.

Regular season races have continued, although admission last weekend was limited to “horse connections, sponsors and media personnel”.

The same procedure will be in place for races going forward.

“In accordance with public safety measures pertaining to the proliferation of Covid-19, Emirates Racing Authority will contest the race meetings at Meydan Racecourse [March 12], Al Ain Racecourse [March 13] and Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club [March 14] and Jebel Ali Racecourse [March 20] without attendees,” the ERA said on Tuesday.

“Though without spectators, all races will be contested and regulated in a standard fashion, and results will be recorded in an official capacity.”


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.

The UAE were due to play in the Asia Rugby Championship Division One at the end of April.

That has been postponed indefinitely, after Asia Rugby suspended all international competition from March to July.

Domestic rugby, too, has been curtailed. Gulf Rugby Management, the region’s competitions organiser, first cancelled the remainder of the West Asia Premiership season because of restricted air travel between the UAE and Bahrain.

The UAE Rugby Federation then postponed all domestic rugby activities last Thursday.

The federation said there would be a "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.”

The clubs that had been due to play finals on March 20 had remained hopeful the decision may be reviewed.

But at the start of this week, the federation confirmed the decision still stands for now.

“The UAERF decision to cease all rugby activities until March 31 will remain in place until further notice,” they wrote in an update to clubs.

“In the meantime, the moment we receive any updates we will inform you via your coaches and managers. Keep fit, keep strong, keep sanitising.”


The Mena Tour cut short its season with six events still to run, although the organisers say they plan to rearrange the competitions for later in the year.

"We are going to postpone the final six tournaments of the 2020 Mena Tour by Arena season, and reschedule between September and December, 2020," the Tour announced.

“Players who have already entered the postponed events will have the entry fees refunded or transferred to future events.”

Five of the six tournaments – three in the Northern Emirates, one in Abu Dhabi and one in Al Ain – were UAE-based.

The season finale had been scheduled for Al Aqaba in Jordan.

The Ladies Open at Yas Links, which had been due to be played on March 6 and 7, was also postponed “to ensure the health, safety and well-being of players, guests and visitors”.

Other sports

INEOS team rider Chris Froome of England (R) rides during the second stage of the UAE Cycling Tour from Hatta to Hatta Dam, on February 24, 2020. / AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE

The UAE Tour was cut short at the end of last month with two legs still to go, when two Italian participants tested positive for the virus.

The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi presented by Daman, which was set to be held on Yas Island on March 5 to 7, was postponed.

The opening round of the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup to be staged at City Walk Dubai on Friday was cancelled.

UAE wrestling and judo competitions have been called off until further notice.