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The Oman Football Association (OFA) has announced that the country’s first fully professional football league will launch on September 13.

The Oman Football Association (OFA) has announced that the country’s first fully professional football league will launch on September 13.

The Omantel Professional League (OPL), whose title sponsor will be the state-owned telecommunications firm, commences following months of preparation and consultancy. It is the first stage in a drive to introduce complete professionalisation of club football in the Arab state, with the top division of the OPL including 14 clubs playing games in the cities of Sur, Seeb, Salalah, Sohar and Nadha.

OFA chairman Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi said: “This is an important step for football to take in Oman and one that we have put lots of work into. Full professionalisation will come in time, but this is one of the first steps – and the new League Authority is now up and running. Significant increase in revenue is needed to achieved full professionalisation, and we are in discussion with the government and partners about how we can achieve that. For now, the new season will see professionalisation in the set-up, in the fixtures, in match day, in television, and in many other areas. Excitingly, it will also see Omani teams taking part in the Asian Champions League next March. The AFC (Asian Football Confederation) have rubber stamped our plans for the creation of professionalisation in this way – stage one is to professionalise the league, stage two will be all the clubs. They will continue to support us as we take further steps.”

The OFA said state-owned broadcaster Oman TV has committed to cover 73 of the inaugural season’s 91 games – a near 50% rise on it coverage of the previous incarnation of Omani football’s top league. Saifuddin Abubakar, the OFA technical consultant in charge of the OPL, added: “We know this is the start, but already there has been great enthusiasm from the clubs, and we can all see what a professional approach will bring to football and to Oman. Clubs want to embrace the changes, and it is our charge to make these changes as quickly as we can. The ultimate aim is to turn football into a vibrant industry for Oman that will bring jobs, community benefits and excitement for fans.”

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