Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, has said he will cut funding to the emirate's professional football clubs unless greater effort is made to increase Emirati representation.
Sheikh Dr Sultan said he will take action by the end of the month if he believes sufficient steps are not being taken to promote home-grown talent.
He made the comments during the live radio programme Al Khat Al Mubasher (The Direct Line) on Monday.
Sheikh Dr Sultan compared UAE's history-making achievements in reaching the Fifa World Cup in 1990 to its disappointing group stage exit at the Arabian Gulf Cup on Friday.
“I remember in the past we reached the World Cup in Italy and scored against Germany,” he said.
“We didn’t bring expatriates or foreigners. During the recent international tournament, we didn’t have good results.”
Ruler offers funding warning
He called on sports clubs in Sharjah to give more opportunities to local players even if results do not immediately follow.
“Every club costs Dh50 million and they asked for an increase in the budget,” he said.
“I want to see my children in these clubs. Even if they don’t bring results I want them to spend their time in the clubs.
“If my sons [Emiratis] are in the clubs then the financial support will continue. Otherwise it will stop by the end of the month.”
He said Emiratis are struggling for playing time because of the number of overseas players in squads.
“Football decision makers should check the recent results and answer us,” Sheikh Dr Sultan said.
“People talking about recent results. It is better if we develop our children.”
Last year, the UAE Pro League increased from four to five the number of foreign players allowed in squads.
This compares with other international leagues which have no caps on overseas players.
Chelsea became the first English Premier League side to select a starting 11 without a single British player in 1999. London rivals Arsenal named the league's first all-foreign match day squad six years later.
It is common for leading sides in many European leagues to field teams largely made up of overseas players.
Eid Baroot, an Emirati former coach, said on Sharjah TV that it was crucial for the nation to develop more local players for the success of the national side.
“If the situation remains the same, with increasing foreigners and expatriate players then within five years we won’t have a national team,” he said.
“We need to support and to train the Emirati players and local coaches and we will get great results.”
Emiratis on social media supported Sheikh Dr Sultan's position.
“My nephew is in the youth team and he is not playing at all despite the team losing in most of the matches. He is now sitting at home and upset,” said Emirati fan Ahmed Mohammed.
“The sport council should have data for the number of Emirati and expatriate players in the clubs and make an Emiratisation target,” said Faisal Al Awadi on Instagram.