Directors and influential figures from the world of sport business have created a 10-point strategy to identify and elevate UAE sporting talent after meeting at the 2018 Sport Industry Forum Abu Dhabi.

The annual event, held under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, took place at Yas Conference Centre on Monday – bringing together UAE sporting federations, clubs, brands, private sector companies and athletes.

The fifth Sport Industry Forum Abu Dhabi aimed to create a clearer pathway to international sporting success for Emiratis, with H.E. Aref Al Awani – General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council – pleased with the outcome of the event.

“A central part of Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s mission is to implement the best and latest systems that promote competition at an international level,” Al Awani said. “That means continually improving upon strategies to identify and nurture sporting talent. We are delighted to work today with passionate stakeholders in sport to collectively achieve this mission.”


The event’s keynote speaker was Professor John Brewer, Pro Vice-Chancellor – Global Engagement at St. Mary’s University (London). Brewer, who worked previously as Head of Human Performance at the English FA and also chaired two UK sporting federations, discussed exactly how the UK has successfully grown its medal count at international competitions, including the Summer Olympics, over a 20 year period.

The Sport Industry Forum tackled key areas including school sports, funding and sponsorship, facilities, pathway programmes and raising the profiles of athletes.

Attendees were also treated to an exclusive panel Q&A by the senior team at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, including their CEO, Peter Wheeler. The team shared a review of last month’s MENA Regional Games and shared lessons learned ahead of the landmark World Games in March 2019, which will involve over 7,000 athletes from 170 countries, 20,000 volunteers and 500,000 spectators.

Rob Balsom, Director MENAP of Nielsen Sports, said: “The 2018 Sport Industry Forum Abu Dhabi was, for me, the most useful and insightful to date. There were some fantastic speakers, highlighting best practice for elite sports development governance. It was great to hear about the details of the Special Olympics plans, and to understand their learnings from the recent MENA Games.”

A number of Emirati athletes were present at the forum, including figure skater Zara Lahri and former weightlifter and mental health advocate Amna Al Haddad.

“This was a very important forum that has created new ways of thinking to improve the sports scene,” Al Haddad said. “It should lead to better equipped athletes and hopefully will get decision makers to take the necessary steps forward.”

Young Emirati sports stars played a major role at the Sport Industry Forum Abu Dhabi.


Sally Corander, Managing Director of INTERACT, the organiser of the Sport Industry Forum, said: “This forum was about bringing together people from across the sport industry to drive forward UAE elite sport. It was great to see young UAE athletes making a real impact in their respective sports and established UAE sports personalities like Zahra Lari (UAE National Figure Skater) and Amna Al Haddad (UAE Weightlifter) share their experiences with the people making decisions and setting sports strategy”.

The Sport Industry Forum’s sponsors were also thanked for their support in setting up the initiative. Sponsors included Harlequin Arena, Musco Lighting, Nielsen Sports, Yas Conference Centre, ESM, CSM Live and Access All Areas.

The 10-point plan was completed during a roundtable session towards the end of the day and will now be presented to ADSC and other authorities for final contributions and approval.