The International Rugby Board has welcomed the United Arab Emirates Rugby Federation (UAERF) as a Full Member Union after Council approved its application during its meeting in Dublin today.
The UAERF became an Associate Member of the IRB earlier this year following the disbandment of the Arabian Gulf RFU and has been fast-tracked through to Full Membership following significant advances, including assuming a leadership role in what is a strategically important region for the development of Rugby.
The IRB is committed to the development of Rugby in West Asia and this is a major milestone for the Game in that part of the world.
The UAERF has shown itself to be an accomplished host for competitions, it has strong support from its National Olympic Committee and a sound structure that has already led to good participation growth, particularly among the local Emirati population.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “We are delighted to be welcoming UAE as a Full Member of the IRB. These are very exciting times for our sport with unprecedented growth and interest around the world. Today’s announcement certainly underlines Rugby’s ability to reach out to new communities and countries in every region.”
“As home to 60 per cent of the global population and 80 per cent of the world’s young people, Asia is a strategically important region for the IRB. Working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) we are currently investing over US$3 million annually in development, high performance and tournament programmes across the region and we will ensure that UAE has the structures in place to flourish and grow on the world stage.”
The UAERF actively participates in ARFU events and has met the IRB criteria for a Full Member. It is a well-structured organisation with full-time administrators. It has 1,300 adult licensed players and a further 4,600 underage players. At domestic level, UAERF runs a seven-team annual domestic 15-a-side premiership and an eight-team conference competition.
The UAERF national 15-a-side team played in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5, finishing third in 2011. The UAERF continues to host tournaments successfully. Since the 2012 Annual Meeting of IRB Council, the UAE Under 19 national team has participated in an ARFU tournament.
ARFU fully supported the UAERF’s application for Full Member status. At its 2012 Annual Meeting, IRB Council agreed that the UAERF be admitted into Associate Membership. Council further agreed that subject to satisfactory progress and given its earlier decision relating to the former AGRFU that the UAERF may be considered for IRB Full Membership at the interim meeting 2012.
The United Arab Emirates Rugby Federation takes the number of Full Member Unions to 100. Including Associate Members there are 118 Unions in membership of the IRB.