May. 27, 2020


Rashid Abdulla Ali

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Rashid Abdulla Ali

CEO, AL Ain Club Investment Company

To diversify its offerings and take advantage of its expertise, Al Ain Club Investment Company is looking to host more than just football matches.

BIO

Rashid Abdulla Ali is a senior management professional with over 11 years of experience in diverse roles across the organizational hierarchy. Before holding the role of CEO of the Al Ain Club Investment Company, he was general services manager of the Al Ain Club Investment Company and manager of the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, which was elected the best stadium in the world in 2014. From May 2005 to June 2013, he was deputy head of general services at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR). A motivational leader and mentor of multicultural and cross-functional teams, he was also appointed COO of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.


Can you provide an overview of Al Ain Club Investment Company and its strategic priorities?
The Al Ain Club Investment Company represents the operations and commercial and investment arm of Al Ain Club. Under our core mandate, we focus on building, managing, and operating athletic assets. We also support Al Ain Club's investments, operations and commercial activities. Al Ain Club is the most successful domestic football club in the UAE and the only Emirati club to win the Asian Champion League. We recently witnessed the overall brand value increase significantly after playing Real Madrid in the Club World Cup in 2018. Much of the success of the club's entire operation depends on how the first team is performing. If it performs well, this is reflected in match day attendance and further opportunities for the club to capture a wider fan base. The team's overall performance has been down this year in comparison with recent years. We have brought in new players and signed new contracts with existing players. We are now starting to observe an increase in the level of performance of the whole team, which will eventually pave the way to achieve remarkable results.

What has been the enduring impact of the Asian Cup and the Special Olympics World Games, and how can Al Ain Club Investment Company build on the momentum of these events to capture further opportunities?
The Special Olympics brings together 7,500 participants from 190 nations. What these events have demonstrated to a global audience is that the UAE has the infrastructure and expertise to host major events. While it is obvious that we have the sports infrastructure, a major consideration was hotels, transportation, and security. In many cases, Special Olympics athletes require special resources and amenities. Over a year of preparation, we consulted with organizers from the previous Special Olympics and the 7,500 athletes, along with their delegations and families. We then anticipated the effect on hotels, malls, and transportation. The Asian Cup also had a remarkable impact. Overall, we hosted 24 teams with a match every two days. We had fans coming from outside the UAE to support their national team, as well as a significant portion of fans from participating countries who are expatriate residents in the UAE. With extensive coverage of such events and high viewership numbers, there was a marked increase in brand value. Inevitably, the UAE will continue to host an array of global sporting events.

What further potential do sports facilities have as a form of revenue generation?
Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, for example, usually hosts around 31 matches per year. Maintenance for the stadium is costly, so this raises an important question of what we should do for the remainder of the year. We have an ever-growing non-football related events calendar. To develop and diversify, we can hold events like weddings and business meetings. We now hold festivals in the stadium, and these events have increased engagement with the local community. Furthermore, we allow schools to tour the stadium. The stadium can be transformed quikly to accommodate various sports and concerts. While there are opportunities, a major challenge is the climate, with the summer proving difficult for outdoor activity.

What do you think is the future of private investment and sustainability in the sports sector?
The government wants to stop funding the clubs, but unfortunately, there is not much room for private-sector investment. The club is one of the biggest aspects of a community. Its role is to engage children and help them do something productive and athletic. The private sector can sponsor activities that promote sporting engagement across our communities. Our experience from previous events is something on which to capitalize. Together, this will pave the way and push forward the country's economy, making it a leading economy and establishing its position firmly worldwide.

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