The Pro League Committee has approved the final calendar for the 2017-18 season which kicks-off in September with the participation of 12 teams. Dates and kick-off times have been agreed following the draw and meeting with the broadcast rights holders.
In scheduling fixtures and deciding kick-off times, the PLC was keen on considering all factors that contribute to the success of the season's competitions by scheduling matches in times that suit the fans to offer added amount of excitement and flair. The PLC also took into consideration the UAE national team games and international breaks in addition to clubs' regional and continental commitments.
According to the approved calendar, the Arabian Gulf League starts on the 16th of September with six matches over four days. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai get the competition underway in the afternoon against Hatta while Al Ain face Al Wasl in the evening match. On day 2, Al Dhafra travel to Ras Al Khaima to play Emirates while Sharjah host Al Nasr. The third day of round 1 pits Al Wahda against Dibba in Abu Dhabi while reigning champions Al Jazira start their title defence at home at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium against newly promoted Ajman on September 20th.
The second round of the Arabian Gulf League takes place on the 23rd and 24th of September with three matches on each day. Hatta open the round at home against Al Ain and Al Dhafra host Sharjah while Al Wasl welcome Emirates. Day 2 fixtures see Dibba host Al Jazira, Ajman play Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and finally Al Wahda travel to Dubai to play Al Nasr.
A quick glance at the Arabian Gulf League first leg schedule highlights the PLC's determination to provide as much competitiveness and rivalry in every round through the even spread of strong fixtures across the season as every round features at least one top clash in addition to derby games which carry special significance due to the historical rivalry between teams.
Looking at the 11 rounds of the first half of the league, key fixtures start in round 1 when Al Ain play Al Wasl in a heated opener. Round 2 features Al Nasr vs Al Wahda and Sharjah vs Al Dhafra, a game that represents a challenge for both sides. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai lock horns with Al Ain in round 3 before Al Wasl face Al Wahda in round 4. Champions Al Jazira host runners-up Al Wasl in round 5 while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai challenge Al Wahda in round 6. Round 7 sees a number of key clashed including the Bur Dubai Derby between Al Wasl and Al Nasr. Round 8 brings rivals Al Ain and Al Jazira face-to-face while Al Nasr face Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in round 9. Last season's relegation rivals Emirates and Dibba clash in round 10 while the final round of the first half of the season pits the last two arrivals to the Arabian Gulf League together as newly promoted Ajman face Hatta who had returned to the top division the previous season.
The PLC looked to schedule most Arabian Gulf League and Cup matches on weekends to allow fans the chance to attend matches, taking into consideration travel times to various stadiums across the country.
The PLC also took into consideration factors such as prayer times in every emirate, allowing fans and everyone involved in the match time to pray on time with no obstacles.
According to the schedule, afternoon matches start well after Asr prayer so the half-time break coincides with Maghreb prayer, allowing fans time to pray in the break. Evening matches kick-off after Isha prayers. The PLC made sure kick-off times change throughout the season alongside changes in prayer times.
CUP FORMAT CHANGED
The PLC changed the Arabian Gulf Cup format to provide more action and suspense. A two-legged quarter-final stage was introduced for the first time, leading to a two-legged semi-final then one final match.
The Arabian Gulf Cup starts on the 4th of September when Al Ain welcome Hatta to Hazza bin Zayed Syadium in a match that was re-scheduled due to Al Ain's participation in the AFC Champions League. The remainder of the competition's round 1 take place on the 8th and 9th of the month. Al Wasl play Dibba and Al Dhafra face Al Jazira and Al Wahda host Shabab Al Ahli Dubai. Sharjah welcome Emirates and Ajman travel to Dubai to play Al Nasr. Fierce competition for the top spots is expected in the Arabian Gulf Cup in the race for quarter-final places after the teams were split into two groups based on their positions in the first round; group 1 is led by Al Jazira in addition to Al Dhafra, Al Ain, Al Nasr, Hatta an Ajman while group 2 has Shabab Al Ahli Dubai joined by Al Wahda, Sharjah, Al Wasl, Emirates and Dibba.