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Wed 4 Mar 2009 04:00 AM

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Agents of change

Following the selection of its final participants, the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Programme for Sports Leadership Development is now up and running. Louise Oakley assesses its impact.

Following the selection of its final participants, the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Programme for Sports Leadership Development is now up and running. Louise Oakley assesses its impact.

With training modules confirmed, international speakers involved, the pioneering participants finalised and business plans assigned, the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Programme for Sports Leadership Development (HBMPSLD) looks set to race ahead in 2009.

Its aim for the 33 sports-obsessed participants - whittled down from 410 applicants - is to create "agents of change", that is, leaders equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage and develop the sports sector in the UAE at a world-class level.

There are major challenges in UAE sports but we lack quality world-class leadership.

The man in charge of rolling out the two-year training programme, HBMPSLD executive chairman Adel Rashid Al Shared, is confident that the best people have been chosen for the programme, which is only open to UAE nationals.

"The programme has generated widespread support and has gathered some of the most promising sports leaders in the country who will be trained to take UAE sports to higher levels of success in the future. Our ultimate goal is to be able to harnass the full potential of sport as a significant contributor to economic progress and social development," says Al Shared.

With regard to only offering the programme to UAE nationals, Al Shared says that "it doesn't work to bring in the expertise from outside".

"The government's strategy is to invest in nationals. The current leaders are all nationals and you expect the second generation to come from here. So you can use expertise from abroad as advisors and that is often done, but when it comes to leadership we shouldn't need them," asserts Al Shared.

"There are major challenges in UAE sports but we lack quality world-class leadership. We don't have full-time leaders; we have someone who has a full-time job where he or she works somewhere else full-time and does their sports in the evening, so sports is being managed as a hobby, a little social gathering rather than a business - which will be crucial going forward," he says.

At the recent HBMPSLD Blue Ocean Forum, a seminar lead by Patrick Nally, co-founder of West Nally and an acknowledged pioneer of international sports marketing and sponsorship and packaging rights, it became apparent that this is indeed the case.

Many of the participants in attendance were juggling careers, sporting commitments and their sports leadership studies. All are committed to the programme however, and all are thinking big, with many of their ultimate aims being roles with Dubai Sports Council or Dubai Sports City.

Just two months into the course and already the participants have been put into groups and tasked with developing a business plan for various different sports projects. Participant Najat Burhaima says her group has to create a plan for holding a major sports event in Dubai.

"We have to choose the event, work out how Dubai can accommodate that event, and lay out our vision, mission and objectives," says Burhaima. "I have chosen to focus on sailing because it is a very classic, prestigious sport, which we have a good environment for here."

"They have set out some projects and we have now to put together a business plan for one of the sports facilities here in the UAE. This will be very useful; it will get us more involved in business in the UAE and help to combine it with sports," adds participant Hassan Mohammed Al Mutawa.

Al Shared concludes: "You can easily have a policy in place, strategies, objectives, but again, you still need the workforce and leaders. We have the vision, the strategy and the first 33 participants; now we need leaders to head up the initiatives and make them happen". Abdulla Hassan, team manager for UAE football team

A former football player, Abdulla Hassan is now a coach to the UAE football team, as well as running his own small company. He says that while taking on HBMPSLD will be a lot of work, one of the skills required is to be able to manage your time well.

"There's so much to learn in terms of leadership. We go through life school and we learn a lot, but actually we need to learn gradually and systematically how to manage our ideas, our ability and what direction we are going in," says Hassan.

He says that although he has a lot of practical experience in sports, he applied for the leadership programme to help him become a decision maker in the sector.

"I'm looking to be a decision maker and someone who understands what is going on in the field; not a decision maker who sits in their office filing paper. The challenge is to transfer our ideas; you should have the strong knowledge base on which to make a decision and then go on to apply it," says Hassan.

"I want to be one of the people who achieves in sport, who can take sport to the international level. We are looking for achievement on both sides; to make individuals into champions and also to host international events," he adds. Najat Burhaima, member of the UAE ladies national basketball team

Najat Burhaima, one of five women on the HBMPSLD programme, fits her sports leadership studies in around training with the UAE national basketball team and her job working in social research.

"It's difficult, but we want it; nothing is easy to get. We have to make everything balance with my work and the studies and basketball practice," says Burhaima.

She explains that she entered the programme in order to study strategy and develop a good foundation for ladies' sport in the UAE.

"I'd like to devise a good strong strategy for women's sport to enable us to enter ladies' teams into international events for all kinds of sports. We'll start from the basics, the juniors," says Burhaima.

Currently, Burhaima says the women's basketball team trains at Sharjah Ladies Club, because "that's the limit for us". Hassan Mohammed Al Mutawa, former member of the UAE national basketball team

Changing mindsets is at the heart of HBMPSLD, according to Hassan Mohammed Al Mutawa, a former basketball player for the UAE.

"First of all, we have to change the thoughts of the administration here who are handling sports. I think they have to push for new blood to have new thoughts and ideas to change the sports environment here in the UAE," says Al Mutawa.

He explains that schools and families must be targeted, so that children and young people realise that the sports sector is now a major industry and potential career path for them, just as politics and economics is viewed traditionally.

"Education is seen as more important and people tend to have negative thoughts about sports people, but we need to combine education and sports.

"For the NBA in America for example, players have to complete their bachelor of studies to play in the national league, so we should have these types of programmes here to open minds," asserts Al Mutawa.

His ultimate aim, adds Al Mutawa, would be a role with Dubai Sports City, where he could be in a position to make changes and bring new ideas to Dubai. Ali Hamad Madhad Saif, international FIFA-accredited football referee

An international referee under FIFA and voted one of the top five referees in Asia by the Asian Football Federation, Ali Hamad Madhad Saif says he started training as a referee because he realised it meant he could be an ambassador for the UAE in global competitions.

"The biggest competitions I have refereed at were the Asia Cup in 2007, the Asian Games in 2006, and five games at the World Cup 2010 qualifications," says Saif, who was voted best referee in the UAE in 2007.

He says he has joined HBMPSLD with a vision to holding major sporting tournaments in the UAE, such as the World Cup or Olympic Games.

"The best tournament they have held in the emirates under FIFA was the Youth World Cup in 2003," says Saif.

He reveals that his dream job would be with Dubai Sports Council, which he is confident will reap the benefits of the HMBPSLD programme.

About HBMPSLDHBMPSLD, bolstered through a co-operation agreement with Manchester University in the UK, aims to develop four main areas deemed to be of critical value to the creation of sports leaders: management acumen; leadership development; technical knowledge; and personal development.

The scheme is the result of a complementary partnership between Dubai Sports Council and Mohammed Bin Rashid Programme for Leadership Development, and is run under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Executive Council and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council.

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