Sharjah Wanderers withdraw from UAE Conference due to lack of playing numbers
Sharjah Wanderers, one of the country’s oldest rugby clubs, have been forced to withdraw from competitive rugby.
Wanderers celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2017, and reached the final of the UAE Conference, the second-tier of domestic competition, in April.
However, they have pulled out of the Conference – which they won three seasons ago - with just over a week to go till the start of the new season, citing declining player numbers as the reason.
“SWRFC are sad to announce that the Men’s XV have had to make the heart-breaking decision to withdraw from this year’s UAE Conference,” the club wrote in a statement on their Facebook page.
“Declining player numbers has taken its toll on the team, and the squad no longer has the numbers to compete in this year’s competition.
“We’d like to thank all our members and sponsors for their continued support as we look to stage our comeback next season.
“This definitely isn’t the last you’ll see of the Wandies men’s team who’ll still be competing in the Dubai Sevens and other social competitions throughout the year.”
The withdrawal of the Wanderers is the latest marker of the harsh realities faced by all clubs currently in West Asia rugby.
Even clubs the size of Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the multiple-trophy winning side who thrashed of Sri Lankan outfit Kandy in the West Clubs Champions League on Friday, have seen their sponsorship income greatly diminished of late.
Last month, Abu Dhabi Saracens announced they had asked to be placed in the Conference for the new campaign, rather than the top-tier Premiership.
Saracens were the No 1 side in West Asia as recently as 2014, but faced a string of problems last season, including the temporary eviction from their home ground at Al Ghazal.
Under the leadership of new coach Peter Henderson, the club are aiming for a revival, but they decided it would be sensible to start the process in the second tier rather than the top one.
“It serves us no long term gain to extend beyond the absolute limits of our means,” Henderson said at the Saracens committee meeting, when they ratified the decision.
“The stresses to the players who would be required to step up a grade should injury or unavailability of other players dictate [the decision], while the financial cost to the club to travel to the West Asia Cup games needed to be considered.
“Entering one team into the Conference offers us unprecedented depth in our ranks, does not extend our finances beyond our means, and gives the players real expectations of success on the pitch. We need to be responsible, realistic and maintain the passion every Sarries player and supporter deserves.”