The United Arab Emirates commercial hub Dubai is in negotiations to join basketball’s Euroleague and host games, an Emirati businessman told AFP on Monday.
Abdullah Al Naboodah, founder and president of the yet-to-be-formed Dubai team, said the signs were “positive” following a meeting of the 13 shareholding Euroleague clubs in the city on October 11.
Euroleague, which bills itself as second only to the NBA, is Europe’s top basketball club competition and has been won a record 10 times by Real Madrid.
It could become just the latest sports franchise to forge ties with the resource-rich Gulf, whose monarchies are often accused of trying to “sportswash” their image overseas.
“Negotiations with the European league began eight months ago, and its goal is to involve a club from Dubai in the prestigious tournament, in addition to hosting some matches in the city,” said Al Naboodah, the former president of Dubai’s Al-Shabab Al-Ahli football club.
“There is nothing official yet, and negotiations are continuing,” he said, adding: “The initial indications are positive towards the participation of a club representing Dubai, in addition to hosting matches in the Coca-Cola Arena.”
Euroleague CEO Marshall Glickman had earlier confirmed reports of the meeting at the 17,000-seat arena in Dubai, where he said league and club officials discussed “potential cooperation opportunities”.
But Al Naboodah denied reports of a 50-60 million euros offer for the tournament’s naming rights, currently held by Turkish Airlines.
“We did not address the rights to the name, as the tournament has its commercial partner (Turkish Airlines) until 2025,” he said.
Earlier this month, the UAE capital Abu Dhabi hosted the first games between NBA teams in the Gulf when the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks played two sold-out pre-season fixtures.
Neighbouring Qatar will host the first football World Cup on Arab soil in November and December, while the Gulf has four F1 races next year and Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in several sports including golf, boxing and football.
The Gulf countries, although currently enjoying a resources boom, are trying to diversify their economies away from fossil fuels and attract foreign businesses and talent.
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