The UAE Pro League’s Media Forum, which was held on Wednesday at Rixos Premium Dubai JBR Hotel, highlighted the technical, marketing and organizational aspects related to the UAEPL, in addition to match organization efforts, technical outcomes and actual playing time of the previous matchweeks of the Arabian Gulf League.
This review came during the UAEPL’s Media Forum, which is a new initiative that saw the attendance of the various media outlets concerned with the UAEPL’s activities and competitions and was held within the framework of the existing partnership between the two parties. It aims to strengthen the communication and continuous cooperation with the media in a more profound way, thus enhancing the roles of both parties.
The forum, which witnessed large attendance, kicked off with a short video that highlighted the UAE Pro League’s efforts and was followed by a speech from UAEPL CEO Waleed Al Hosani who welcomed the attendees and praised the fruitful communication between the Pro League and the success partners represented in the clubs, technicians, coaches, administrators, players and fans, as well as media outlets, who play a key role in reflecting the efforts made for the sake of the success of the sports season.
The UAE Pro League CEO revealed that over 50,000 PCR tests were conducted before the matches this season. He also highlighted the Pro League’s technical committee meetings since the start of the season and the coordination meetings with clubs representatives and match commissioners. Al Hosani also reviewed the match protocol, actual playing time statistics, and highlighted the TV broadcast map, the digital rights, in addition to emphasizing the Pro League’s promotional initiatives since the start of the 2020-21 season, represented in the new audio identity, the virtual visual elements, the new website and mobile app, the Arabian Gulf League fantasy, the e-League, and the UAEPL commercial approach.
Al Hosani stressed that the current match protocol was prepared according to the best international practices, while putting different scenarios into consideration, starting from holding the games behind closed doors and until the complete return of fans to stadiums, while mentioning that the protocol was approved by the competent authorities.
The protocol measures included dividing the stadium into four sections to ensure the implementation of the precautionary measures, which includes checking the temperatures of everyone at the stadium. People at sections 1 and 2 have to present a negative Covid-19 test result no older than 72 hours, while those in sections 3 and 4 can present a test result that's no older than a week. The stadiums are also fully sterilized before and after the matches, with a new ball being used every game.
When asked about the expected date for fans return, Al Hosani revealed that the final decision in this regard will be made by the relevant authorities, as they are the ones who decide the fans return date based on the Covid-19 situation, while the Pro League is ready and well-prepared for the different return scenarios and the precautionary measures.
Al Hosani was also asked whether there are any protocol changes for those who received a Covid-19 vaccine. He explained, “this is a positive move, but changing the Covid-19 protocol or easing the fans return to stadiums is the responsibility of the relevant authorities, who are closely following the situation. There may be some changes in the future, in case the number of people receiving the vaccine increased.”
Al Hosani also said that the relative decline in the actual playing time compared to last season is considered acceptable due to the suspension of the competition for more than seven months and holding the pre-season training camps domestically, while being affected by the country's high temperature and humidity in August.
The average playing time during the first five matchweeks stood at 0.49.46 compared to 0.51.47 in the same matchweeks of the 2019-20 season and 0.48.48 in the 2018-19 season. Al Jazira currently hold the highest playing time record in the Arabian Gulf League this season with an average of 0.31.22, while Shabab Al Ahli are at 0.31.19 and Al Nasr are at 0.29.20.
Al Hosani revealed that the actual playing time statistics will be presented to the UAEPL’s technical committee, who will analyze it and study suggestions for improving the technical aspect of the competition, in addition to organizing technical meetings with coaches to discuss the mechanism for developing the technical aspect of the competition.
The Pro League CEO revealed that the 2018-19 Arabian Gulf League season achieved viewership of over 18 million. He also spoke about the efforts done to broadcast the league all over the world through new digital platforms.
When asked about the match timings, the UAE Pro League CEO said, “the fixtures timings are based on coordination meetings with the rights holders in order to find a balance between the matches and the sports shows,” he explained.
He added, “the timings are chosen in a way that ensures the highest viewership. Since working hours end at 4pm or 5 pm, we decided to hold the first game at 6pm to allow the TV channels at least an hour between the first and the second set of matches."
He pointed out that the suggestions related to changing the match timings were discussed with the rights holders, in hopes of finding a mechanism that would allow narrowing the gap between the matches, which is expected to happen during the winter.
He added, "a coordination meeting will be held with the rights holders, especially that they couldn’t reduce the gap between the first and second sets of matches due to their broadcast programming, which requires an hour difference between the first and second sets. We will discuss these issues in our next meeting and will announce the outcome soon."
When asked about the revenue distribution mechanism, Al Hosani said, "the Pro League presented a new initiative, which entails distributing 35% of the revenue equally between the clubs and 15% will be distributed as incentives based on two new initiatives. The first one will see the allocation of incentives to clubs based on fan attendance percentage and the second entails allocating incentives to clubs based on their Asian participation, as AED 5 million will be distributed to the most successful clubs in the competition.”
He also discussed the new format of the Arabian Gulf Cup saying, "the change was done after several studies, and we seek to make the tournament more competitive, and it will be evaluated at the end of the season. The technical committee is closely following and evaluating the competition. In case the new format proved successful, we will maintain it. However, we can restore the old format if the objectives weren’t met, as we have already changed the format and mechanism more than once in the past years.”
The Media Forum also highlighted the most prominent promotional initiatives that were implemented ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season, including the new audio identity, which is a contemporary identity that connects with the new generations of football fans, and aligns with the practices of international leagues.
The new audio identity fuses international and oriental music with motivational sports music in a way that highlights a competitive atmosphere. Fans get to listen to it and enjoy it before the start of each match and along all the visual content related to the UAE Pro League on TV and social media channels.
Viewers of the UAE Pro League competitions also get to see new virtual visual elements during some games such as logos, statistics, in addition to virtual panels in the stands in a pioneering step in the region that enhances the match viewing experience.
The Pro League also launched a new website and a mobile app, and allocated prizes for the Arabian Gulf League fantasy participants amounting to AED 50,000 and is currently studying the prospects of introducing a loyalty program that allows fans to benefit from different offers and rewards.
Al Hosani also spoke about the commercial success of the Pro League and their efforts to enhance the UAEPL’s income sources, through sponsorship and partnership agreements, as the UAEPL have most recently sealed sponsorship deals with the Follow up Committee of the Initiatives of UAE President and Rixos Hotels. The UAEPL also understands the importance of the existing strategic partnerships, and therefore renewed the sponsorship deals with Etisalat and Al Nabooda Automobiles until the end of the 2020-21 season.
The basis of the UAEPL’s strategic plan for the next 10 years entails focusing on the commercial development, financial sustainability of competitions and clubs, and accordingly the Pro League team will diversify income sources, create new commercial assets, develop investment methods and improve the competitions’ brand.