Al Ain Amblers History
The club was formed in 1984 and in 1988, we joined the AGRFU, playing on a sand pitch at Al-Ain English Speaking School. During this period players used extra padding and resembled Michelen men, still managed to leave the pitch with raw and scraped flesh.
Our first clubhouse was built on this site consisting of some old Portacabins donated by Al-Ain Hospital Contractors. The clubhouse became the main centre of expatriate social life in Al-Ain until circa 1997-1998. With the biggest New Year parties in town being held at the Rugby club, with around 200 people attending. The still active Al Ain Hash was also a spin-off from the rugby club with keen runners joining players on training runs.
During the eighties and early nineties, the club always struggled to put enough warm bodies on the pitch. But all tournaments and matches were supported and competed in by the Amblers. Even to the extent of borrowing up to a third of the team. This was mainly due to the relatively small number of expatriates in Al-Ain during this period. However, the club was known as the most sociable in the Gulf and despite there only being “friendly “matches against local clubs and visiting ship’s teams. An invitation to Al-Ain Amblers to play and socialize was much sought after. The fact that numerical superiority of female nurses from Tawam Hospital outnumbered the single male expat population in Al-Ain by almost two to one, may have contributed to this.
A further bonus of these demographics was the success of Women’s rugby when introduced by the AGFRU. From its early conception Al-Ain Women’s Team were at forefront winning the inaugural Dubai’s 7, some 41 years ago and successfully defended the title the following year.
In 1992, Al-Ain entered the newly formed Emirates League and for the first time played rugby on a regular basis. At this time, the club decided to hold a domestic or local sevens in a competition for teams from Al-Ain. The venue selected was the grass pitch at the Intercontinental Hotel (now the Danat Al Ain). This was supported and encouraged by the then manager and goal posts were installed for two grass pitches, completely unheard of in Gulf rugby at the time. The success of this tournament encouraged the club to play all its future matches there, while still utilizing the old clubhouse for after match festivities.
The club also decided to open their sevens competition to other Gulf based teams in 1993 and the tournament has become a fixture of Gulf rugby since. In 1996, an international division was added to the tournament with the national teams of Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and AGRFU competing. This tournament became the second biggest tournament in Gulf Rugby, after the Dubai sevens. In 2011 the tournament was selected as a host for the UAERA Seven’s Series.
In 1997, the club joined the Arabian Gulf senior league and performed with distinction for several years. Also in 1997, the club split apart and for two seasons there were two fully supported clubs in Al-Ain. The most noteworthy part of this episode was that on the same day, the Amblers played in the final of the 1st Division Cup, the breakaway club played in the final of the Second Division Cup, with half of that team being of Arabic origin. Although both teams lost their encounters, it was a remarkable achievement based on the relative size of the expatriate community from which the players were drawn. This year also saw The Amblers appoint the first part time professional coach in Arabian Gulf Rugby.
The nineties also saw the creation of the clubs Youth Section with at its peak over one hundred players participating. In 2002, a change of management at the Intercontinental Hotel meant changes of pitch for the club, and seasons were spent playing on grass pitches at Tawam Hospital and subsequently Ghoufot School. But, at last in 2004, the Amblers realized a long held ambition, a grass pitch of their own. This was obtained and installed with the help and assistance of Al–Ain English Speaking School. In 2006 Al-Ain hosted its first 15 a side International match, with the Arabian Gulf playing Korea in a World Cup qualifying match at the Al-Ain Sports Club.
The Amblers moved to their current location, Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club, after a generous offer from Sheikh Mohd. Bin Khalifa Al Nayhan. With a large clubhouse, gym, pool and three floodlit pitches, these magnificent facilities are certainly the best in Gulf Rugby and can equal many of the top class grounds in Europe and elsewhere.
The move to the new facilities combined with an increase in expat numbers in Al Ain created resurgence in the Amblers fortunes. Indeed the period from 2008 until today has seen the Amblers win the Emirates League three times and their successful promotion to the UAE Premiership. The Veterans have also excelled, winning the Gulf Veterans competition in the Dubai 7’s in 2009, the second year running that they had reached the final.
Youth rugby also continues to grow strongly in the club with over 140 players regularly involved. The Amblers have developed a strong reputation in age group rugby reaching the finals of the Emirates Leagues at U16 and U18 levels and wining the International Bintang 10’s in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 at U14 level.
The club also played its part in the administration of Rugby in the Gulf with several individuals being elected to various offices. The club also has a strong history of developing representative players for the AGRFU and UAERA.
The 2014/2015 season brought about the introduction of two men’s teams which they both competed in the UAE conference cup.