Bright future ahead for UAE football, the fans & commercial partners

We are delighted to bring you a comprehensive study jointly undertaken by CSM Sport & Entertainment and SMG Insight which provides a detailed analysis of the current footballing landscape in the UAE.

The report shows that the staging of international tournaments, a strengthening domestic game and high profile Arabic players are among the factors helping to widen fan demographics and increase the value on offer for commercial partners.

The findings demonstrate a game that is in rude health and growing in popularity in the region amongst both fans and potential sponsors. This points to a positive future for football development and sponsorship as fans in the UAE reveal that they see the domestic game as exciting, accessible, professional and compelling.

However, the survey also suggests that domestic football in the UAE still trails behind international competitions and club sides when it comes to the size of local fan base and perceived value to local and regional brands.

The study also highlighted important findings about the media of choice for football fans, giving brands a better idea as to where and how to best reach football audiences in the region.

The majority of fans (55%) said that social media was their preferred medium when tuning in to football. 50% of fans watched football on TV, 40% used online streaming, 38% followed football through websites, 37% read newspapers, 32% used mobile streaming, and 25% followed football through various apps. Only 16% of fans said that they physically attended football games, an ongoing challenge for the long-term growth of the game.

Speaking on how the results of the survey reflect the UAE’s football fan base, Frank Saez, Managing Director and Founder of SMG Insight, said:

“UAE is a melting pot of cultures and its interest in football shows its multicultural identity with both international and domestic football finding space to co-exist. With a vibrant mix of both men and women excited about the game and with major events such as the FIFA Club World Cup, The AFC Asian Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup coming to the region, MENA domestic football will only continue to progress.”

“This is a great time for brands to seriously consider further involvement in domestic leagues and with domestic clubs” he added.

Ben Faber, Regional Director of CSM Sport & Entertainment, believes that the findings in this year’s survey can help the growth of the sport in the UAE:

“The insights from this study show that football in the Middle East, and particularly in the UAE, has been bolstered in recent years from the internationalisation of the game. Investment in the hosting of major tournaments, sponsorships by regional brands of international club sides, and a new generation of Arabic player, have all had a significant impact on the growth of an engaged fan base, and therefore greater commercial value on offer to sponsors.

“As the UAE heads into its second consecutive year of hosting the FIFA Club World Cup, quickly followed by the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019, the future for the sport certainly looks healthy. But there nevertheless remains a lot of work to do to ensure that the domestic game can compete more evenly for local share of voice with international football, and this is the key challenge for the sport over the coming decade.”

The study was conducted earlier this year, with 1006 individuals from across the UAE taking part. The results detail the demographics, interests and insights of football fans and give insight into the common themes that lie within the UAE football market. The full data set may be provided to interested parties on a case by case basis – requests should be made directly to CSM Sport & Entertainment –