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SBD Global/International Football

UAE Football Clubs Are Paying Fans To Attend Matches

The UAE's Pro League football clubs' practice of paying fans to attend matches "has been defended" by the league's vice chairman, according to Omar Al Raisi of THE NATIONAL. Vice Chair Abdullah Al Junaibi said their culture is known "to be very hospitable and charitable." League officials said the typical rate for a "fan for hire" is Dh50 ($13.61), with boys of 12 or younger generally paid Dh25 ($6.81). Additionally, most fans are eligible for bonuses of Dh25 or more "if they are adjudged to have performed admirably:" singing, clapping and chanting throughout the match. The practice "certainly is not typical among the leading national leagues" in the Asian Football Confederation, such as those in Japan and South Korea, where crowds of tens of thousands pay their way into the grounds. Al Junaibi said, "We need to realize the short history of football companies in the UAE. It was just four or five years ago that they transformed themselves into football companies. However, the mentality and mindset of their fans have perhaps not been transformed completely." It is believed that all of the "big" clubs in the country attract young men who sit in the main stand, across from the VIP areas, "by giving them cash to attend." In some cases, they are also given food and drink, as well as transportation to and from the match. The supervisors, along with the club's band, "train the recruits in the club's songs and chants." They advise fans to be in the stadium 45 minutes before kick-off, ready to sing, chant and clap until the end of the match. A top club official said that paying fans "is not limited to the big clubs" and added, "I believe that all clubs have fans who are paid to attend, and more so the small clubs." It is not clear if clubs playing in neighboring nations also pay fans to attend, but the official said that he thought not. He added: "Saudi Arabia have a good product and plenty of people to attend, and Qatar has no one in stands. This may be unique to the country" (THE NATIONAL, 9/23).
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