The UAE Pro League's technical development efforts and plans have achieved success in key objectives including a reduction in the average age of the Arabian Gulf League players from 28.5 years in the 2018-19 season to 26.4 years in the current season.
According to numbers and statistics presented at the technical workshop for the 2021-22 season, the Arabian Gulf League has the lowest average age among some of the world’s top leagues; the Italian Serie A has an average age of 26.6 years, the English Premier League has an average age of 26.9, while the Spanish LaLiga’s average stands at 27 years. On the regional level, the Saudi Professional League has an average age of 28.6 years.
The UAE Pro League implemented a range of initiatives over the past seasons that helped reduce the players’ average age in the Arabian Gulf League, as it became amongst the youngest leagues on the global, continental, and regional levels. The drop supports the implementation of strategic initiatives according to short-term and long-term plans in order to elevate the Emirati football standards.
Introducing regulations that obligate each club to register 3 UAE nationals (who can play for the UAE national teams) born in or after 1998 within their matchday squad helped reduce the average age of the Arabian Gulf League players.
According to regulations, teams who fail to register those three players in their matchday squads will have incomplete lists and won’t be allowed to compensate for such players later.
In addition, clubs can’t register new players who are older than 20 years under the “UAE resident” category, unless they were already registered in the UAE Football Association in the past season. Also, players registered under the "UAE Resident” and “Born in the UAE” categories shall not have represented any other country, and players previously registered under the “Foreign Player” category cannot be transferred to the “UAE Resident" category.
The “UAE resident” category was first introduced to the UAE Pro League competitions in the 2017-18 season, which coincided with the return of the reserve league, as they were given the chance to take part in the reserve league.
Article 8 of the 2017-18 season regulations allowed each team in the Arabian Gulf League to register 2 players under the “UAE Residents” or “Sons of UAE national mothers” categories born between 1998 and 2001. Players registered under these categories should have a valid and continuous residence for at least one year.
Al Jazira take the lead
The technical workshop revealed a drop in the average age of the Arabian Gulf League players in the 2020-21 season compared to the 2019-20 season and an increase in the participation of UAE nationals born in or after 1998 in the Arabian Gulf League.
Al Jazira have the youngest squad in the league with an average age of 25.2 years, which marks a drop from last season's lowest average (26.28), which was recorded by Bani Yas. During the current season, Al Jazira are followed by Bani Yas (25.79 years), Fujairah (25.97 years), Al Wasl (26.12 years), and Hatta (26.43 years).
Al Jazira also fielded the largest number of players born in or after 1998 with a total of 9 players. Hatta and Al Ain came second with eight players each, while Shabab Al Ahli, Khorfakkan, and Al Wahda were represented by six players each. Ittihad Kalba and Al Wasl fielded five players each, while Ajman, Al Dhafra, Fujairah, and Sharjah had five players each. Bani Yas and Al Nasr lingered at the bottom of the list with one player each.