Exiled from the West Asia Premiership, Doha Rugby Football Club have shown a keen interest in joining the Sri Lankan domestic league but logistic differences see the possibilities still under discussion.

Uncertainty in the Middle East during the first week of June saw at least five countries including the UAE cutting off all diplomatic ties with Qatar. The Qatar boycott that came into effect despite negotiations has had its impact on the sport of rugby barring the Doha Rugby Football from playing in the West Asia Premiership Rugby.

This meant that Doha RFC could not gain access to the UAE or Bahrain to play their matches in the Premiership nor were the other teams allowed to travel to Qatar.

The West Asia Premiership is the Middle East’s rugby league having a representation of four teams from Dubai, two from Abu Dhabi and the Bahrain RFC in addition to the Doha club.

Uncertainty continues to live in the Doha Club while an array of rugby talent will be left isolated
Uncertainty continues to live in the Doha Club while an array of rugby talent will be left isolateds

In such a scenario, hope was still with the Qatar club until the end of August where Asia Rugby vowed to organize a neutral location such as Oman to play the games but negotiations had failed meaning the club had to look for alternative options.

“We have had a few conversations with Asia Rugby about the best way forward, and we all agreed the practicalities of travel in the West Asia Premiership would be too hard for all the teams involved,” said Martin Murray, the Doha club chairman speaking to TheNational.ae.

“All the teams were keen for Doha to be involved, but we had to be realistic. We are still working on options about playing elsewhere, and are working with Asia Rugby towards playing in a viable competition.” He had further added.

“Exile has left a black hole in the system”

The Doha Rugby Football Club is a front runner in the West Asia Premiership finishing second last year behind the Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Founded by the British expatriates in 1974, it is the oldest club in the Arabian Gulf with an active membership of over 200+ players.

Action from last year's premiership where Doha RFC were runners up and was the only team to defeat the winners, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Action from last year’s premiership where Doha RFC were runners up and was the only team to defeat the winners, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins

The club has seen the likes of many known names in rugby union including New Zealander Luke Masirewa who was also a part of the Sri Lanka Super 7’s for the Softlogic Warriors in 2016.

Luke Masirewa in action in the Super 7's 2016 was a starter for Doha RFC last season
Luke Masirewa in action in the Super 7’s 2016 was a starter for Doha RFC last season

With the rest of the seven clubs preparing for a league sans Doha, the Qataris are currently considering other leagues to play their game.  

Interest in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s rugby system and structure have attracted the Gulf club and the representatives have assessed the possibility of making it to Colombo for the sport. With a lucrative eight team domestic league and a knockout trophy, Sri Lanka Rugby is under discussion with the overseas club.

“Doha approached us about the inclusion of their team in the Dialog Club Rugby League. We had the discussion with a few teams and we are very much eager for the partnership” added Priyantha Ekanayake CEO of Sri Lanka Rugby.

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However, Priyantha also points out that although Sri Lanka appreciates the move, there are concerns about the practicality of them playing in the league.

“Our league has two rounds where we expect the teams to play each other home and away. Therefore we will have to incur costs to travel and the clubs would not be a position to cover them”

Despite the logistic difficulties, Sri Lanka Rugby is still optimistic about the Qatari club’s presence in the country.

“We have suggested that they can join the knockout trophy as well as the Inter Club Sevens since they span a limited time period and will be played in Sri Lanka.”

ThePapare’s take on the matter

While Qatar’s inclusion is a good move for the local rugby system, it is not practically possible for the clubs to play them overseas with the lack of funding some clubs persist.

After the overseas players left the club rugby system, the spark in the local segment has diminished. If Sri Lanka Rugby talks this one through, it would be a good time for the local clubs when it comes to the Clifford cup and the Sevens.