Timeout for Abu Dhabi Harlequins until rugby league bodies of UAE and world solve governance issue

Club official says playing on 'seems farcical' and not right in the current situation while Wasps may also follow suit.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins are out of the league competition for now. Delores Johnson / The National
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DUBAI // Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the defending Rugby League Cup champions, will not play again in this year’s competition because of the situation surrounding the game’s governance.

As the sole, government-recognised ruling body for rugby in the country, the UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) announced on Monday it planned to restart and oversee the domestic league competition.

It was suspended two weeks ago after Sol Mokdad, who had been running it, was detained by police for the “unauthorised representation of the UAE sovereignty” by claiming the title of president of the Rugby League Commission.

The union federation said on Monday it had met with “two UAE-based rugby league club spokespeople”, namely Mike Quinn, the Sharks chairman, and Keleto Dyer, the Al Ain Amblers coach.

Saood Belshalat, the UAERF board member who will oversee a new rugby league committee, announced the final round-robin match between Dubai Sharks and Xodus Wasps will be played on May 29.

Harlequins are waiting on the result of that match to see if they will get the chance to defend their title, in a final against Al Ain Amblers, which has been rescheduled for June 6.

With Mokdad still in custody last night and the Rugby League International Federation disputing the UAERF’s right to govern the game, Harlequins said they would not participate.

“It doesn’t feel right that we keep playing while [Mokdad] is still in jail,” said Andy Cole, the chairman of Harlequins.

“It also doesn’t sit right to do it without the backing of the governing body of the sport [the RLIF]. Without their approval, it seems farcical.

“We will not participate at the moment. We want to let the hierarchies talk it through and decide what they are going to do. We are happy to look at it again once it has been resolved.”

Wasps, who need to beat the Sharks by more than 65 points to beat Harlequins into the final, are set to let their players decide whether to continue playing today.

There are no independent league teams in the UAE. All four teams competing in the Rugby League Cup are offshoots of clubs that are affiliated to the UAERF.

Harlequins are well represented by players with significant pedigrees in the 13-man code.

Ben and Sam Bolger have both played league professionally in their native Britain, while their teammate Iziq Foa’i recently trialled with Warrington Wolves, a Super League club.

The 13-a-side sport’s global rulers stated on their website yesterday that David Collier, the RLIF chief executive, had met with the General Authority of Youth, Sport and Welfare (GAYSW) to discuss the “optimal means for recognition of rugby league in the UAE”.

“Background information not previously in the hands of GAYSW was provided in respect of the sovereignty of World Rugby for the sport of rugby union and the Rugby League International Federation for the sport of rugby league,” the statement read.

Collier was quoted as saying: “We recognise any solution will include the recognition of RLIF as the sovereign international federation for the governance of rugby league and RLIF has committed to working with GAYSW to identify this solution.”


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