The UAE Pro League organized, on Monday, the second edition of the UAE League Development Forum, taking place on May 1st and 2nd, at Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental- Abu Dhabi.
The event was attended by an elite group of specialists from FIFA, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Asian Football Confederation (AFC), as well as international lecturers in various disciplines and representatives of professional clubs and the media.
The first-day activities were inaugurated by a speech delivered by UAE Pro League chairman His Excellency Abdulla Naser Al Jneibi, in which he welcomed the attendees, saying, “We are here to share with you our aspirations, hopes, and strategic plans for a better future for Emirati football, especially in light of the support of the UAE wise leadership that has spared no effort to support sports and athletes in creating an inspiring reality that motivates us to achieve a sustainable future.”
Al Jneibi added that the UAE Pro League believes in the important role being played by professional clubs and the media, so it was keen to engage them in all its initiatives to benefit from their fruitful ideas and discussions, hoping that the forum would result in reaching developmental and innovative proposals that create a better future for UAE football.
On the other hand, the UAE League Development Forum aims to discuss the most prominent development initiatives in various aspects, taking advantage of the field visits conducted by the UAE Pro League team with experts from major international consulting firms, who will contribute to formulating the initiatives that were put forward for discussion during the forum.
Such ideas, initiatives, and studies would then be presented to the relevant authorities for further consultation and practical study during the upcoming season, after which the most appropriate recommendations are approved, before being referred to the General Assemblies of the UAE Pro League and the Asian Football Association (AFC) to implement what will be approved in the next season or according to what the relevant authorities deem appropriate, so the sessions witnessed extensive discussions on many files related to the development of all professional competitions.
The first-day sessions of the UAE League Development Forum touched on ways of enhancing technical development.
Accordingly, Gareth Jennings, the technical director of the UAE Pro League, displayed the outcomes of the field visits to the UAE professional clubs and the importance of consolidating continuous consultation with their sports and technical directors.
He also presented the most prominent proposals and practices made by club officials that aim at achieving the future strategic objectives set out by the UAE Pro League, which are also in line with the 2030 strategy.
The first-day activities saw the participation of international footballer Andrés Iniesta, via Video Conference, as he talked about the experience of the professional player.
The Spanish star expressed his deep happiness over the participation of an elite group of experts during the UAE League Development Forum's discussions.
Iniesta talked about his long and old relationship with the UAE, as he was among the U-20 Spain's national team squad, which took part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The former Barcelona captain asserted that he is happy to partake in that forum, which probes the development of football and players. "Surely, It is a positive initiative, and I was keen on partaking in it, despite being busy here because it is a great opportunity," he said.
Regarding his advice to the players, he said, "Focus is the major key to anything. All players must focus on fulfilling their dreams at the stadiums, which related to what they want to achieve during their football career. Even in normal life, if any person sets a goal for himself, it will require him to exert great effort to reach his aim, which is closely similar to football. Every player must fight to make his dream a reality and achieve unprecedented successes with their clubs or national teams."
" Players must know positive habits at a young age, and they must realize that football is not just a 90-minute match, but a whole life, which requires a real intention and desire to achieve their goals inside and outside the pitch," Iniesta concluded.
The forum's first day concludes with a dialogue session about technical, commercial development, and governance in football.
The AFC Deputy General Secretary and Executive Director of the AFC Competitions Division, Shin Man Gill, the arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Benoît Pasquier, and Elliot Arthur, a sustainability and climate communications expert, as well as the Chief Commercial Officer for Nottingham Forest, David Cook, spoke during this session.
On his part, the AFC Deputy General Secretary, Shin Man Gill, displayed the Asian experience in improving football across various leagues and how they developed, whether in Australia, Japan, or West Asian countries.
The AFC Deputy General Secretary hailed the development of the UAE League and the forum's ideas, suggesting some ideas studied by the Asian Football Confederation to narrow the gap between Asian national teams and clubs.
He also displayed the project of the AFC regarding the Champions League competition, which will be held under a new format during the upcoming season by changing the tournament's date to become more competitive.
Meanwhile, the arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Benoît Pasquier, stressed the importance of raising the players' awareness regarding their legal aspects to be familiar with their rights and duties.
"I reviewed contracts cases between players and clubs, which could be settled without inflicting financial losses, so creating good governance in the contractual relations between players and clubs is a necessary matter, as such disputes could be settled by negotiation between all parties," Pasquier added.
On his part, the Chief Commercial Officer for Nottingham Forest, David Cook, discussed the clubs' successes in financing their activities and contracts, focusing on marketing aspects and increasing revenues to serve the development of football and the league.
He noted that he lived in the UAE for several years, witnessing the great passion of people with football, which requires strengthening this relationship in terms of marketing and investment matters between the clubs and their supporters as the fans' attendance is one of the main challenges that face any league.
Meanwhile, Elliot Arthur, a sustainability and climate communications expert, presented a different vision and called for paying attention to climate change.
"Nowadays, the most influential means are the social media accounts of players and clubs, which have more impact on people worldwide than the newspapers, so the clubs and players should play an important role in participating in the sustainability of football and the football's good governance," he concluded.
The forum came after the great successes achieved by the first edition, which took place last year, as it was the first of its kind and the most comprehensive in terms of initiatives, discussions, and visions, which came after months of preparations, visits, and field studies on the ground with the participation of global companies and think tanks, that worked with the Pro League's teams to identify the most critical challenges facing the Pro League's competitions, not only at the technical level but also at all levels related to professionalism.