Australia creates Dh14m fund to stop its coaches from coming to the Gulf

DUBAI — Gulf sporting organisations and clubs are so aggressively pursuing overseas coaches to develop the region’s burgeoning competitive excellence that Australia has created a Dh14 million ‘war chest’ to keep what it calls the ‘poachers’ at bay.

By Staff Reporter

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Published: Mon 5 Jun 2006, 11:07 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:20 PM

Peter Fricker, director of the world-renowned Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), told Australian media the Gulf states of the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar were ‘recruiting like mad’ among Australia’s top coaching talent.

Lured by generous salaries and remuneration packages, many of Australia’s top home-grown coaching talent has departed Down Under to take on clubs from emerging sporting nations. The Gulf, with its passion for sport and cash-rich club owners, has become a favourite destination.

Fricker, who is credited with helping transforms Australia’s sports culture from one of mediocrity in the 80s to being a dominant world player by the mid-1990s, said he was determined to stop the flood of departing sports talent.

He admitted many Australian coaches could earn up to AUS$50,000 (Dh137,000) more per year by teaching abroad. “We are well under some of the salaries we see being offered to coaches to go overseas,” he told The Australian newspaper. Fricker said overseas clubs were ‘targeting’ Australian coaches.

The UAE and other GCC states rely heavily on foreign coaches and players to nurture and develop their growing sporting talents, particularly in sports like football.

The UAE’s new head football coach is a Frenchman, Bruno Metsu. Last season the majority of UAE First division teams had foreign coaches and senior overseas players.

But a survey of the various national and expat sports clubs contacted by our reporters in the different emirates did not throw up any famous names.

Greg Norman, Australia’s ‘great white shark’ is designing golf courses — Fire and Earth — for real estate developers Nakheel. He’s the closest to a big-name in the UAE sporting scene. But then he is only using his expertise to make courses, not players.

By and large the UAE has stayed away from hiring Australian professional coaches in major sports — football, cricket, athletics, basketball and volleyball — of the country.

The reaction was one of mild surprise when various sporting personalities and clubs were contacted for information on Australian professional coaches in the UAE.

The only two Australians doing anything worthwhile here are Greg Hodge and Simon Payne. The former has been coach with the UAE Swimming Association for the past two years while the latter is the golf pro at Dubai Country Club.

“As far I know, there are no other Australians coaching professionally in the UAE,” Payne told the Khaleej Times.

Last year Jason Metters, once the fourth-ranked triathlete in Australia, coached would-be ironmen at the Ghantoot Polo and Racing Club here. Four years ago Metters was also coach of the Abu Dhabi Police triathletes squad for a period of 10 months.

Qatar recently hired Australian Geoff Hunt to become head squash coach at the Qatar Sports Institute. Hunt, one of the all time squash greats and Australia’s top squash coach, moved to Qatar this month to take up the post.

Fricker also pointed the finger at Great Britain and Canada as a leading culprits in the coaching drain from Australia.

In response the AIS, which was set up to ensure Australia did not experience the humiliation of its poor showing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and is now an international center for sporting excellence, is focussing on 10 top coaches who it will pay to stay.

“If we know a coach is being head-hunted we will be able to make them a better offer,” Fricker said. Further funds have been put aside to protect Australia’s sports science and medicine experts being lured to the Gulf and other countries. Fricker described the total funding as “a bucket of money”.

Britain’s sporting community has already reacted with hostility to the move, accusing Australia of “pulling up the drawbridge”. But Fricker’s response to Britain and any other nation affected by the Australian scheme is one of unapologetic determination.

“They will get over it,” he said. “And I don’t really care if they don’t.”

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