Rugby union in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf

Rugby union in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf

Rugby union in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf is a minor, but growing sport. The Arabian Gulf rugby union team is currently ranked 40th in the International Rugby Board's world rankings[1] which ranks the IRB's ninety-five full member countries. Out of 4645 registered rugby union players in the Persian Gulf region, 2950 are pre-teens or teenagers.[2]

Governing body

The governing body for rugby in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, until 2010, is the Arabian Gulf RFU, whose headquarters are located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Previously known as the Gulf Rugby Football Union (GRFU) and founded in 1977, it became the Arabian Gulf Rugby football Union (AGRFU) in 1990 at a time when it had no permanent base and the elected committee was drawn from member Clubs in the region. The AGRFU was initially accepted as Associate Members of the (then) International Rugby Football Board (IRFB)in 1990 and becoming Full Members of the IRFB in 1991 at the Board meeting held in Bristol.[3]

At the end of 2010, the AGRFU was broken up, with new unions to be established in each member country, as announced in January 2009 by the IRB. The first national union to be formed from the AGRFU is expected to be that of the UAE.[4] The AGRFU's representative team played its final Test match in May 2010.[5]


Rugby was first brought to the region by the British military around the mid-20th century. In addition, some Arabian royals and nobles have been sending their sons to English private schools for years, where they have picked up the game.

The sport was promoted by Commonwealth expatriates working in the oil industry, and they continue to dominate the game.[6][7] For example, the ARGFU website continues to be in English only. However, the Emirs, greatly interested by the phenomenon, provided grounds and financial support.[7] Also buoyed by the success of the Hong Kong Sevens, Dubai Sevens were set up.,[6][7] which is one of the premier rugby sevens tournaments, and for a number of years a team has been sent from the Persian Gulf to the Hong Kong Sevens.[6] Although rugby still continues to be dominated by expatriate clubs, the Dubai Sevens has encouraged the setting up of a number of Arab teams.[7]

The Bahrain Rugby Football Union,[8] Doha Rugby Football Centre (Qatar) and Kuwait Rugby Football Union all come under the AGRFU banner,[6] but will become independent of it in the near future.[4]

2007 Asian Nations Series

The Arabian Gulf rugby union team had mixed results at the 2007 Asian Nations Series. The squad was involved in two one-sided matches, losing to Kazakhstan by a score of 49–9, and defeating Sri Lanka by a score of 52–11[9]

External links

  • Official Website for AGRFU (in English)
  • Rugby Readers review"Islam and Rugby" on the
  • (French) Archives du Rugby: Pays du Golfe


  1. ^ Official IRB World Rankings,
  2. ^ Official IRB statistics on Arabian Gulf RFU
  3. ^ Allan J Malcolm, Secretary (1989) and later Chairman (1989-1995) of the GRFU and architect of the strategic plan to realize this.
  4. ^ a b "Major boost for West Asia" (Press release). International Rugby Board. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "Japan run 100 points past Kazakhstan". 15 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1) p62
  7. ^ a b c d "Islam and Rugby" on the Rugby Readers review retrieved 2 July 2009
  8. ^
  9. ^ Official IRB 2007 Asian Nations Series Results