UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered all Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup football matches to be broadcast for free in the country.
The removal of satellite encryption is intended to support the national sport sector, state news agency WAM reported.
“The latest directive reflects government efforts to support and develop the country’s sports sector across many levels including the building of stadiums and sports facilities, as well as offering free television broadcasting of sports events,” WAM said.
A survey of 1,006 UAE sports fans released last month by marketing agency CSM Sport and Entertainment revealed that Spanish side Real Madrid was the most popular football team in the country.
In contrast, only 13 per cent of UAE football fans supported the most popular local team Al Ain, with even smaller percentages following Egypt’s Al Ahly, Shabab-Al Ahli Dubai, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad, and Al Wahda.
CSM said the survey showed “domestic club football still has to go in the UAE in attracting a large and loyal fan base”.
Viewing figures of different tournaments also showed local competitions falling short.
The most popular competition among fans in the country was the the FIFA World Cup, engaged with by 47 per cent of fans. The FIFA Club World Cup, being held by the UAE in December, followed with 38 per cent and then the UEFA Champions League (35 per cent), English Premier League (32 per cent) and Spain’s La Liga (25 per cent).
The Arabian Gulf League was most popular in the Middle East and North Africa region with 19 per cent. The AFC Asian Cup (18 per cent), AFC Champions League (18 per cent) and the GCC Champions League (17 per cent) came next on the regional list.