For nearly 50 years, Ras Al Khaimah’s rugby club did not officially exist.
Now RAK Rugby has now been granted a royal decree in a rare and significant move that brings a huge boost to the popular community club.
Emiri Decree no 8 of 201 means that the club is now a government-registered body that can apply for the sponsorship it needs to push recruitment and develop its infrastructure, which could one day include its own grass pitch.
“It’s always been just kind of an organisation of people who live in RAK and there’s no formal process in how we do things,” said Simon Williams, the chair of RAK Rugby.
“That really has limited us in what we can do and in how we approach sponsors, for example. There are big organisations here in RAK and they basically said we can’t deal with you until you exist.”
The club announced the news on Twitter, posting a photo of Mr Williams and the club president Ken Neves with Sheikh Abdullah bin Humaid Al Qasimi.
Formal recognition is increasingly important as the government tightens regulations on social organisations. The UAE Rugby Federation has long encouraged member clubs to register with the government, said Mr Williams.
This is more easily done for non-profit sports clubs in Dubai, which can register with the Civil Society Organisation Licensing.
No equivalent entity exists in the Northern Emirates and so RAK Rugby reached out to the royal family for help.
“The royal family here have been very supportive and keen here to get us going,” said Mr Williams.
The importance of registration was reinforced with the sudden death of the team's scrum half, Nick Young, after suffering a fatal injury at a tournament last month.
“There were also just concerns that if we don’t exist, what happens if something happens to someone on or off the pitch,” said Mr Williams. “Any organisation should have those concerns.”
This decree will allow RAK Rugby a more formal role in the community. The club would like to help local schools following the recent introduction of rugby to the physical education curriculum, said Mr Williams.
Funding will boost recruitment as the club develops its junior and women's teams. The new women's team has grown to 12 players, including Jane Leonard, a flanker who played for England.
Competitions can be expensive. The club needed Dh21,000 to participate with three teams in the Dubai Rugby Sevens last year. Currently, money is only raised by membership fees.
The club relocated from a sand pitch at the Bin Majid Hotel to a grass field at the Tower Links Golf Club last summer but in its 49 year history has yet to have a pitch of its own. “Obviously we’ve got a whole wish list of stuff that we can do and building a pitch is part of it,” added Mr Williams.