Usually,and by “usually” I mean “in each and every case everywhere except for this one weird one”, the fan-club dynamic works like this: The fan pays money for a ticket, attends the game, cheers on his team (or boos them, if he so desires), goes home, and banters about on the internet annoying everyone he or she comes in contact with. In the United Arab Emirates, the dynamic works a little differently. Fans don’t pay for the clubs for tickets, the clubs pay the fans to show up.
At going rates, Emerati clubs pay young men Dh50 (£8.50/$13.50) per game to attend Pro League matches, plus bonuses of Dh25 if fans “performed admirably” by singing and chanting throughout the match. The deal often includes food, drink, and transportation to and from the game.
The clubs defend the practice on “hospitality” grounds.
“Previously, as a social club, the football team was seen as part of the extended family of the fans. And in this case, especially in our culture, where we are known to be very hospitable and charitable to our families and relatives, clubs and fans alike do not think that it is right for fans to be paying for tickets.
“Instead, clubs feel that, as part of the family, when they invite fans to come to their home, the club, who are acting like the host, have to treat the fans in the right way.”
Because these men are “part of the family”, they need to be paid to visit the club’s “home.” This is a cultural institution that I do not understand. Of course, it’s not really about hospitality, it’s about manufacturing an atmosphere. Average attendance for the UAE Pro League, home of Diego Maradona’s former club Al Wasl, in 2011-12 was 3,240.
“We have a band who sings for the team during the games, and in order for them to do so, they require about 500 or 1,000 or 1,500 fans, depending on the matches, to sing and clap and support the team.
“We pay the bands and they distribute some money to fans who are invited to clap as a reward, and also water, juice and sandwiches are given to them.
“This is not for us to fill the stadium, but to change the attitude of the fans. We want the matches to be an entertaining experience for the fans and for them to enjoy other activities, as well.”
So here you go, every fan who has ever dreamed of getting paid to attend matches. Get yourself to the United Arab Emirates and live your fantasy.
Oil money is an amazing thing.
Source: The National