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Organising Sports Events in the United Arab Emirates – A Legal Checklist Before You Kick Off!

In light of a new law issued in January this year, we thought it would be worthwhile summarising the key approvals required for organising a sports event here in the United Arab Emirates.

Emirate Specific Laws / Approvals

The new law is Law No. 4 of 2017 amending certain provisions of the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) Law No 11. of 2009. Most of the provisions of this new law relate to the inner workings (e.g. objectives, powers, constitution, budget etc.) of the DSC but it also amends certain obligations on sports institutions.

Article 20 of the new law now requires sports establishments to:

  • “work in accordance with DSC's instructions and in cooperation and coordination with the General Secretary with regard to their sports programs, activities and events;

  • establish their statutes and organizational, administrative and financial regulations and submit the same to DSC for approval;

  • provide their development projects and programs to DSC to approve the necessary funding;

  • obtain the licenses and approvals necessary for engaging in their work from DSC;

  • obtain the approval of DSC when desiring to participate in sports events held outside the United Arab Emirates; and

  • obtain the approval of DSC to hold sports events and stick to the place allocated for holding such events and submit the reports and data requested by DSC with regard to all what is relevant to their preparation and execution”.

DSC had previously issued its ‘Regulations on Organising Sports Events in the Emirate of the Dubai’. These set out in detail the requirements for events such as:

  • the application process for approval including the details to be provided on the sports event (e.g. objectives, type of competition, awards, sponsors etc.);

  • the requirement for establishing an organising committee (comprising a rep from the relevant game federation, the organiser and other involved parties);

  • use of the DSC logo on the marketing material; and

  • the requirement to provide reports within 90 days of the event.

There are similar sports councils in the other Emirates such as Sharjah Sports Council, Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Fujairah Youth and Sports Authority, which all have authority to approve sports events in their own Emirate.

Federal Laws / Approvals

The Federal body with overall authority for sport in the UAE is the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare, which was established under Federal Decree No. 7 of 2008. The main federal level legislation is Cabinet Resolution No. 31 of 2015 on the Executive Regulations of Federal Law No. 8 of 2014 concerning the Security of Sports Facilities and Events. The Resolution contains detailed provisions including a requirement for the following:

  • approval by the police of the relevant Emirate (application to be submitted no less than 15 days prior to the event) and the attendance of a police observer at the event;

  • approval by the Ministry of Interior if the event is to be held in more than one Emirate;

  • security to be provided by a security firm licensed pursuant to Law No. 37 of 2006 on Private Security Companies;

  • an administrative and organisation plan for the event;

  • the facility to have a minimum level of equipment and technology (such as public address system, communications, inspection, surveillance etc.);

  • employee training;

  • appointment of a facility security officer and sports event security officer, both of which have specific roles and obligations; and

  • restriction on the fans conduct (such as running onto the pitch, bringing in fireworks etc.).

Fines under the federal law include imprisonment and/or fines of up to AED500k (or up to AED1m for obtaining an approval for a sports event through fraud).

Approval from Relevant Sports Associations

In addition, approval from the relevant federal level sports federation/association may be required e.g. UAE Football Association, UAE Rugby Association etc. The list of these is available on the General Authority of Youth & Sports Welfare’s website

Also, depending on the event you are hosting, you may also need approvals / no-objection notices from the relevant international sporting governing body (e.g. ICC for cricket, which is conveniently located in Dubai Sports City).

Other Considerations

In addition to the above approvals there is obviously a range of other legal considerations when hosting a sporting event in the UAE such as:

  • the correct corporate vehicle and licensing in the relevant Emirate(s);

  • sponsorship agreements;

  • visas for international players;

  • venue hosting agreements;

  • marketing and advertising;

  • insurance;

  • regulations such as anti-doping; and

  • the correct dispute resolution mechanism for the agreements (with the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) being one attractive option).

If you need any assistance with hosting any sports events in the UAE please get in touch. The Bench lawyers have extensive experience in this area including advising Emirates Cricket Board on the hosting of the IPL in 2015 and the Grand MidWest Masters T20 masters cricket tournament in 2016. Our lawyers have also been recognised as leading sports lawyers in the Who’s Who of Sports and Entertainment Lawyers.

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