The UAE Pro League Committee moved to cancel the Arabian Gulf League in a dramatic video-conference decision on June 18. The competition came to an abrupt halt on March 15 over coronavirus concerns, with seven games in hand for each of the league’s 14 clubs. In a thorough press release, the Pro League Committee outlined the options, and the deciding factors in their decision.
League Committee chairman Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi led the meeting, with Vice Chairman Jamal Hamed Al Marri and the officials in attendance. Ultimately, they cited health and travel concerns highly among their list of deciding factors in the league’s cancellation. They also moved to prioritise other sporting competitions over the Emirati league title, such as the Arabian Gulf Super Cup, and the upcoming AFC Champions League and Fifa World Cup.
This announcement follows reports that the Pro League was to resume in August. While other football competitions resume in the next few months, this decision simplifies the sporting schedule. According to the Pro League Committee, the move to cancel the 2019-2020 season will lighten the burden of fatigue and injury risk as the sports industry struggles to catch up with the coronavirus shutdown.
Instead of finishing the season to crown a winner and send current top teams to the Arab Champions League, the Pro League Committee will send the top flight’s 2018-2019 victors. Sharjah, Al Wahda, Al Ain, and current league leaders Shabab Al-Ahli will therefore compete for the AFC Champions League in 2021.
The coronavirus pandemic paralysed sporting competitions across the globe. On top of infection risks, the Arabian Gulf League officials found the extremely hot and humid weather forecasted for July and August in the Emirates to jeopardise player and coach wellbeing. The League thereby puts health and safety first, as some European leagues in cooler climates begin resuming their competitions.
Pandemic travel restrictions also limit the league’s chances. International players and coaches in particular would struggle to return to the Emirates given the current international situation.
Football in the Arabian Gulf League has ceased for over three months. The amount for training required for optimum player performance, and for teams to get back in shape, placed league resumption into further question.
In addition, the UAE Pro League released details of a club survey on the issue. According to the results, 12 professional clubs opted not to resume the competition. This outcome proved the final nail in the 2019-2020 season’s coffin.
The PLC’s decision robs the league’s current front-runners, Shabab Al-Ahli, of their six point lead, possibly a league title. It has been a turbulent few months for the Dubai club, who also recently appointed a new manager. Shabab Al-Ahli promoted Spanish-born Gerard Zaragoza from under 21’s manager to replace the Argentinian Ruldolfo Arruabarena as manager just two days before Emirati football was halted on March 15. The team will have to take their momentum to international competitions and next year’s league instead.
On the other hand, the move saves the Arabian Gulf League’s stragglers from relegation to the First Division League. The current 13th and 14th place teams, Hatta Club and Al Fujairah SC no longer have to prove themselves in the last seven games, as all 14 teams have another chance in 2021.
The likes of the Premier League and Bundesliga are currently finishing their seasons in empty stadiums. However, France, like the Emirates, has cut its top flight competition short. Whereas the 2019-2020 Arabian Gulf League has no title winner and or relegation victims, Ligue 1 awarded Paris St-German their ninth league title this year.
This creates a conflict at the bottom of Ligue 1 as teams protest against an early relegation. Amiens and Toulouse, the last place clubs in Ligue 1, are currently appealing to the French State Council against the original Football league decision. According to the BBC, this dispute may cause a system-wide restructuring of French football.
The resumption of the Bundesliga and Premier League provides many sports fans with a sense of satisfaction and closure. However, the UAE Pro League Committee’s extraordinary decision favours simplicity, safety, and a forward thinking attitude to future competitions.