Sheffield United refuse to revise their travel plans
It seemed strange, given that thousands of tourists will be soaking up the rays on its beaches or browsing through its shopping malls, but barely an eyebrow was raised when Brighton and Hove Albion became the latest Premier League club to scrap plans for a warm weather training camp in Dubai during next month’s winter break.
After Manchester United also announced they would no longer be travelling to the popular holiday destination because of political instability in the region, Graham Potter’s side also confirmed they would be revising their schedule ahead of February 22nd’s visit to Sheffield United.
Reports at the time suggested Albion feared the fact they have a Jewish owner, wear kit manufactured by a US based sportswear company and are sponsored by American Express could see them become the target of protests following the assination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a drone strike sanctioned by President Trump.
But United will travel to the emirate following their home game against AFC Bournemouth on February 9, where Wilder’s players are set to prepare for the remaining 12 matches of a season which could see them qualify for the Europa League despite only being promoted last term.
Owned by a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family - despite a brief cooling of relations around six years ago, the Kingdom continues to view the UAE as a cultural and geopolitical ally - United not share the same concerns as Albion or their namesakes from Manchester.
Indeed, HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, summoned Wilder to an important strategy meeting in Dubai ahead of this month’s transfer window, which closes on Friday night.
Although the Foreign Office’s website acknowledges there is a “heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria”, it does not advise against travelling to the UAE.
“Around 1.5 million British nationals visit...every year,” the FO states. “Most visits are trouble free.
“Following the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimanu in a US strike in Baghdad on 3 January, the incident has led to heightened tensions in the region.”
United will not be the only English top-flight side in Dubai when the competition takes part in a staggered break next month. All have completed security investigations - and identified no causes for concern - in line with standard industry procedure.
United eighth in the table, only a point behind fifth-placed Manchester City, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.