Sol Mokdad issues public apology to UAE Rugby Federation to end criminal proceedings against him

Mokdad, who has attempted to promote the league format in the UAE since 2007, was released on bail on the night of May 19, having been in prison for 13 days, reports Paul Radley.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins, white, play Xodus Wasps Dubai, yellow, during their Nissan Rugby League Cup match at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on April 24, 2015. Christopher Pike / The National
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DUBAI // Sol Mokdad has issued a public apology to the UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) as part of the agreement to end criminal proceedings against him.

The federation took action against him for “unauthorised representation of the UAE sovereignty” in setting up UAE Rugby League and illegally claiming the title of president of the organisation.

Mokdad, who has attempted to promote the league format in the UAE since 2007, was released on bail on the night of May 19, having been in prison for 13 days.

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The UAERF, which is the only government-recognised body for rugby in the country, had issued a public statement saying they had withdrawn the case more than a week earlier, conditional upon Mokdad agreeing to three criteria.

The conditions basically stipulated he could have no future involvement in promoting or organising rugby league in this country.

However, by the time of his release from custody, he and his lawyers still had yet to see the document.

Mokdad met with representatives of the federation and police during the weekend, when a new set of conditions were presented to him.

That included a clause demanding he make a public apology for his actions.

He signed the agreement on Monday and was making plans that night to relocate from the UAE to the UK.

Mokdad used the social media streams of the now-defunct Rugby League Commission to issue his public statement of contrition.

“We apologise to the UAE country and UAERF for our illegal behaviour, and the announcement of forming a rugby federation,” the statement said.

“(Also for) forming a group of players and calling this team an Emirates rugby league team and organising a local tournament called Emirates Rugby League without obtaining permission from UAERF.

“We committed a mistake by doing that. It was a mistake in newspapers and all different kind of media about (the) emirates hosting the Rugby League World Cup 2021.

“We broke all protocols and traditions of using the name (of the) country without any rights to do so.

“We had no official or unofficial status, and everything we did was wrong and a mistake and we will never ever do it again.”

The global governing body for the 13-man code, the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF), is understood to have encouraged Mokdad to agree to the terms to end his case.

However, the RLIF are still in the process of attempting to persuade the General Authority for Youth and Sport Welfare that league is an independent sport which should not be answerable to union.

At present, the only way rugby league players will get the chance to play their sport in this country, and have their matches sanctioned, is at the discretion of the UAERF. A new committee, headed by Saood Belshalat, the longest-serving Emirati rugby administrator, was assembled for the first time last week to deliver that remit.

However, the matches would not have international recognition, and the UAE will not be in a position to field a national team in league while it is governed by union.

Under Mokdad’s leadership, the UAE had “observer” membership of the Rugby League European Federation, which oversees the Middle East and Africa.

That membership has now been cancelled.

Mokdad said he is sad to see the sport he tried to establish in the past eight years vanish from the UAE sports landscape.

“It is an eye-opener and should be an example for other sports to ensure they seek government recognition,” Mokdad said.

“It has been a learning curve. Our situation will hopefully be a lesson to anyone else trying to develop their sport, and will regulate things that way. That is a positive.”

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