Doha start pre-season but Alex Natera doubts club will play in West Asia Premiership

Matt Jones 02:18 14/08/2017
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Alex Natera has been putting his Doha side through their early paces as pre-season got underway in Qatar last week – although he is preparing for life devoid of West Asia Premiership rugby next season.

The botcott of Qatar by the UAE and several other Gulf nations in June left Doha in a precarious situation, although they were given hope last month when Asia Rugby revealed it was looking at arranging Doha matches to be played on neutral territory in Muscat.

Natera, however, claims that possibility is looking ever more remote with the club concerned about the costs involved and loss of clubhouse revenue on matchdays.

“Our only hope of playing in the West Asia Premiership is if the blockades are lifted in the next few weeks and if the UAE Rugby Federation do have a back-up fixture list with Doha included in it,” said the Australian.

“I think it’s pretty fair to say, although we would like to, it’s highly unlikely we’ll be playing in the Premiership this season.

“This is still our ideal option and we have to prepare for that scenario just in case. But it’s unlikely we’ll play our games in Muscat as it sounds like we are expected to cover all expenses for both home and away fixtures for both teams – a ridiculous suggestion that actually says a lot on its own.”

Pre-season has, nevertheless, started in earnest, with Natera reiterating that Doha will play competitively this season – with the possibility they might even play in Sri Lanka.

“We have been busy with other options and we are optimistic that we will be able to play in another league overseas this season,” he added.

“We are excited about this prospect and hopefully we’ll get some definitive answers with I’s dotted and T’s crossed before the month is out.

“I’ve told the lads we will be playing rugby this season and we need to approach these early days as if we will be in the WAP and kicking off in mid-September.

“We started pre-season last week. There are still lots of players away still but we’ve averaged about 30 players for all three sessions.”

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