The ICC Academy at Dubai Sports City has been a beacon for the game of cricket in the United Arab Emirates since it opened in 2009. Soon, however, there will be a new kid on the block; this year sees the opening of a state-of-the-art facility at the new GEMS Heritage School (GHS).

It bodes well for the development of cricket in the UAE that GEMS Heritage School is placing the sport front and centre of its offering. Those students attending the school will have the opportunity to experience a professional academy environment but GHS is not an inward looking institution.

The new facilities – which include a full size cricket oval, eight indoor lanes and eight outdoor lanes, a giant digital scoreboard, and a cricket pavilion with museum – will be open to young cricketers across Dubai, who will be welcomed with open arms to an academy that is aiming to become the hub of junior matches and tournaments in the UAE.

Gems School Cricket

Darryl Bloud is the man tasked with leading GEMS Heritage School. The Executive Principal was previously at the helm of GEMS Modern Academy, which under his stewardship was awarded, and maintained, an ‘outstanding’ rating from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Sport played an important role in life at the school, and Bloud is determined to take that approach to the next level with GHS.

“To me, being an ‘outstanding’ school is not only about academics, it’s about the holistic development of the children,” Bloud tells Sport Industry Insider. “I was passionate about sport when I was at school – cricket, rugby and football were my games – and I’ve seen throughout my career the positive impact it can have, both socially and physically, on students.

“That’s why sport is at the heart of Heritage. I can confidently say that there will be no school in the UAE with a cricket academy that can match the one we’ll have. In partnership with ESM (East Sports Management) we will develop a professional sports culture that will help us become the cricket hub for coaching and tournaments in the UAE.

“We are not necessarily going to compete directly with ICC – but we are definitely looking to show the cricket community how well a school can deliver a cricket experience.”

That experience will also include delivery of programs in nutrition, sports science and sports psychology by UAE-based grassroots sports provider ESM.

“I think it’s the duty of every school to preserve the health and wellbeing of its pupils. That’s our priority.”

The aim is to develop future career paths for the students that go beyond playing professional sport to include management, marketing and coaching.

“We are very excited about the new GEMS Heritage School, James Bowring, Managing Director of ESM, tells Sport Industry Insider. “It has been designed with a vision to ensure its students try sports, get active and enjoy the opportunities of playing at all levels.

“ESM will help the school to become the hub for playing cricket at youth level in Dubai and with such fantastic facilities currently under construction, we believe it will be inspirational for more young people to get into cricket.”

If the facilities weren’t enough to attract students, GEMS Heritage School also offers a more affordable payment structure than many of the other GEMS institutions – with fees of 14,000 AED to 24,000 AED per year.  Scholarships for those with exceptional sporting ability will also be available.

GHS is expecting to welcome 10,000 students through its doors in the next three years but the facilities will also be opened up to the general public, offering what promises to be a useful alternative revenue stream.

Beyond the financial incentive, it is the potential to impact children beyond the walls of GEMS Heritage School that excites Bloud most about the project.

“As per the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, we feel it is our responsibility to play a role in keeping children across the UAE healthy, not just our own students,” Bloud explains.

“I think it’s the duty of every school to preserve the health and wellbeing of its pupils. That’s our priority but GEMS Heritage School’s facilities will be for all students in Dubai.

“Fitness, games, sports – we want to be the focal point for school sports in Dubai. It doesn’t matter to us what school you attend. It’s going to be very special and I think sport in this school will be like no other.”