All sports and competitions need to be forecasting for the future to protect their own interests, and the UAE Pro League Development Forum was the perfect brainstorming opportunity for those in the know in UAE football to get together and share ideas.

The varied and comprehensive agenda tackled a full range of topics, and was once again a demonstration of the commitment of those working within the game and the UAE to preserve the league’s current status and grow it exponentially where possible.

At the inaugural UAE Pro League Development Forum, many key issues and thoughts were raised, with all of the key decision makers at the clubs in the division looking to harness a successful future for the league as a whole.

Time for modest reform

With the UAE Pro League growing commercially and internationally from a footballing perspective in recent years, full-scale reform was never on the cards at the UAE Pro League Development Forum.

However, it is key that all organizations are aware of developments within the international game and are looking to implement them within the existing structure of the league, and this was top of the agenda at the UAE Pro League Development Forum.

Squad sizes

Currently, there are as many as 36 players available to teams within their squads in the UAE Pro League, which in comparison to sides operating in UEFA competitions in Europe is significantly more – European sides have 25.

Consequently, there are far less opportunities for fringe players at squads in the UAE Pro League to get on the field of play and get minutes in their legs.

Replicating the UEFA model was discussed at the UAE Pro League, with the benefit of being able to give more playing time to younger players and develop a more sustainable roster system being identified as clear advantages moving forward.

Foreign player quota

The introduction of foreign imports to the UAE Pro League has had a profound effect on the development of the game in the country, and the improvement of individual players and teams has been exponential.

Like every league in the world, the influx of foreign players also moves forward the culture and footballing identity of a league, enabling it to grow and improve.

Consequently, the forum suggested that increasing the number of foreign players to six in each squad roster would be beneficial for the future of the league, both in the long and short term.

League format

Currently, 14 sides ply their trade in the UAE Pro League, which is around the average number for most leagues in world football.

The competition is still in its relative infancy, however, and with crowds and international coverage still growing, a suggestion to reduce the number of sides in the competition to 12 was made by the panel.