Day in the Life: Ex-England rugby star on organising this year's Emirates Dubai Sevens

Mathew Tait oversees Dubai's biggest rugby event that kicks off this weekend

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A Day in the Life” allows you to step into the shoes of a UAE resident to experience a typical 24 hours in their work and home life

Mathew Tait knows his way around a pitch, having lit up rugby's biggest stage for England against South Africa in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in Paris.

Sixteen years later, the former rugby player is a year into his role as the general manager and festival director of Emirates Dubai Sevens.

The 37 year old is responsible for developing commercial and strategic opportunities across both the Emirates' Dubai Sevens and the Sevens Stadium. He oversees logistics, social media, marketing and manages the teams and the event calendar.

With the much-anticipated tournament kicking off this week on December 1, the father of two has been busy setting up what is poised to be an action-packed weekend of sport, live performances and experiences.

Here, he shares with The National how his typical weekdays look and what it takes to organise an epic weekend in Dubai.

5.30am: Early riser

Up at the crack of dawn, Mr Tait leaves his home to take his two sons, aged eight and 10, to school in Al Barsha before driving 25 minutes to the Sevens Stadium for a full day of work.

If he has time, he'll head to the gym for short cardio intervals or a HIIT session.

"I don't have the patience to do anything more than 30 minutes, so I'll do some cardio on an assault bike, with 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off," he said.

"Then I'll get straight into replying to emails and working through various tasks for the day, or I'll go through budgets and sit down with members of the team to make sure they're OK.

"If I don't get to the gym, I'll go for a walk around the site."

10am: Catch-ups

With so many moving parts to the event, Mr Tait uses his morning to meet different departments to ensure everyone is on track and up-to-date.

"I have my core staff who work at the Sevens Stadium and Dubai Sevens and we work with government entities who help us strategically," he said.

"Every Wednesday, we have an open forum to go through everything.

"I'll meet the marketing team to make sure everyone is aware of what's going on, then I'll tend to catch up with a few functional areas who I haven't been able to speak to including partnerships, servicing and sports operations."

1pm: Protein-packed lunch

Mr Tait's role involves ensuring the athletes from all 180 teams have everything, from accommodation to nutrition, in place.

"One of the pluses here is working with the athletes and understanding that they are creatures of habit, so making sure we have all provisions in place for match day and event days, as well as appropriate areas for them to chill out," Mr Tait said.

"It's also important to make sure that their food is on point – that it is full of high-performance nutrition – to ensure they are able to perform on the day."

For Mr Tait, the same applies.

"I'll bring leftovers from home, or eat a protein-packed lunch, such as steak and chips from the restaurant on site," he added.

2pm: Straight back to work

With it being Mr Tait's busiest period, he gets straight back to work in managing the full-scale infrastructure, hospitality chalets, bars and partner activations ahead of the Dubai Sevens.

"Everything is being built on schedule and we're aiming to get everything delivered. I have regular check-ins with teams to see if there are any glaring red flags," Mr Tait said.

"This includes checking the weather forecast for this weekend and making sure that our partners who have built structures are aware of that and can preserve what has already been built."

This year's event has a number of new features, including Padel courts and a children's stage that will have its own line-up of Disney singalong shows, balloon bending and giant roaming mascots.

It will also have a new shaded garden.

"Historically this has been an issue, so we invested in a large shaded garden area so people can chill and relax out of the midday sun," Mr Tait added.

"The kids area is also twice the size [of last year's] so we've invested in this to include a larger square footage for kids and families to engage, as well as a few new elements that we have refined and tweaked based on feedback."

4.30pm: Delivering excellence

Since his role includes arranging the entertainment for the event and venue, Mr Tait has a few meetings throughout the day to catch up with the relevant teams.

"We have invested heavily in the music offering to set us apart from other festivals and events, so we have DJ Luck and MC Neat on the Beats On 2 stage on Friday, then Artful Dodger performing on Saturday afternoon, followed by headliners Becky Hill and DJ MK in the evening," he said.

While his role is somewhat stressful in the lead-up to the Dubai Sevens, Mr Tait says the hard work and long hours are worthwhile.

"I enjoy the interactions with the teams. We are one big collective group and are learning skills and insights from each other. Our goal is to deliver a world-class service that shows the world how good we are. Days are long but it's worth it in the end.

"These types of events take around 11 to 12 months to deliver, so it's full-on until the last note has played on the final day."

He says the most satisfying part of his job is when he realises his team has collectively come together to deliver an amazing experience for paying guests.

"That's the closing hours of the final day or just after the last musical note has been played," he said.

"I take a breath, enjoy what happened, give myself about five minutes of grace and then I get back to working on reviewing the event and taking stock before planning ahead for the extra events we have coming up."

Mr Tait is also preparing to host Ed Sheeran at the venue in January.

7.30pm: Quality time with family

After a long day of co-ordinating teams across the event site, Mr Tait finally heads home to spend time with his wife and two boys.

"I'll try to get back for dinner and evening with my family. I'll also put the boys to bed which takes twice as long these days, and then I'll answer a few emails," he added.

"I'll also spend half an hour with my better half to catch up on her day before we head to bed."

Post-event, Mr Tait is looking forward to heading back to the UK for some much-needed family time.

After his break, he'll be back in Dubai and busy planning how the Sevens Stadium will play host to Ed Sheeran in January.

But knowing how full-on his schedule can be with planning high-scale events, would he trade it all to get back on the pitch?

"I did my 15 years and I'm grateful for that but I'm very done with playing rugby," Mr Tait said.

"There are a lot of my contemporaries still putting their boots on. But if they wanted to pull my leg on to the pitch, I think it would fall off."

Updated: November 28, 2023, 5:31 AM