Dubai sports institutions attempt to navigate uncertainty brought about by coronavirus

Twenty-four community organisations are working together to try to remain financially secure despite the challenges dealing with outbreak

Sports institutions in Dubai linked up to formulate a plan to cope with the closure of school sports facilities last week. Courtesy Infinite Sports
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Rival sports providers in Dubai have joined together to attempt to navigate the uncertainty brought about by coronavirus.

Twenty-four community sports institutions in the city initially linked up to formulate a plan to cope with the closure of school sports facilities last week.

They are now working together to try to remain financially secure despite the challenges prompted by the measures taken to combat the spread of the virus.

Gareth Mordey, the chief executive of Infinite Sports, a company that provides activities for children in a variety of sports, chaired a meeting of the group early on Thursday morning.

“We understand these are uncertain times for everyone and our top priority remains the safety of our children and community,” Mordey said.

“The continuous guidance and communication from the Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Health Authority [DHA] regarding sporting activities across the emirate has helped in ensuring our decisions are based on facts only.

“We followed the [Knowledge and Human Development Authority] directive last week and stopped all of our in-school operations starting Sunday March 1 until further notice.

“We continue to operate in other Dubai sporting venues at this point, and work closely with these venues to ensure risk assessments are done, cleanliness is upheld, group sizes are smaller, and DHA guidelines are followed.”

The closure of school facilities has placed a strain on a variety of independent small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly those who provide sports activities.

Many conduct all of the operations at school premises, and have had to search for alternative venues over the past week.

The issue was exacerbated on Thursday morning when the Sports Council issued a circular to sports providers in the city saying: “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.”

A number of clubs and academies immediately informed parents of their participants of the decision, with some suggesting their staff take unpaid leave during this time.

At 5pm on Thursday, though, the Sports Council clarified the earlier message had related to those events involving international participation, and that “all other normal sporting activities should continue as usual”.

“We understand this is an ever changing situation and this is the approval we have from now until further notice,” one academy subsequently wrote to its participants.

“As always, the safety of our community is of the utmost importance to us and we thank parents for their trust and understanding at this time.”

The issue has meant that organisations who are used to competing against each other for results – as well as business – are now working together to find solutions.

“Everyone is in the same boat,” Chris Brown, the global football director of the It’s Just Football academy, said.

“The whole community sport ecosystem survives on schools, and now everyone is on a mission to find alternative venues, which are not too easy to come by.

“It is a challenging situation at the moment. But, because we have been given clear timespans, hopefully with all being well, everyone will be able to start again at the start of April.

“These are unprecedented circumstances, and it is a global situation. We are doing the very best we can, and are trying to support one another.

“A lot of these companies are realistically rivals, but we realise that we need to come together and help one another.”