The Official Version

Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club - Part I

John Bailey 1975 – 1980
Chairman 1977/78, 1978/79, and President 1979/80

This official version is an amalgam of the prefaces for the 1978 Gulf Rugby Union Chairman’s Invitational and the 1979 Thailand Tour and has been updated with some statistics.

The game of Rugby Football has been played in Saudi Arabia since 1970 when some enthusiastic players of the Airworks company met to throw a rugby ball around amongst themselves. On completion of the Airworks contract, the employees of their successors, British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), met regularly to continue the practice sessions inaugurated by Airworks.

In 1973, a further group of players was formed in Al-Khobar, and it was decided to amalgamate the two groups into what was called Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club (DRUFC). Those early days showed a total membership of 31 members with training sessions being held twice a week at Dhahran Airport soccer field, and regular Thursday afternoon 'matches' being played on the small softball field adjacent to the Aramco tennis courts in Dhahran.

The Club had its first representative match in October 1973 against Bahrain, and the 16 men who finally arrived in Bahrain consisted of 9 forwards, 5 backs, 1 referee and 1 social member. During the pre-match festivities, the referee and the social member tossed up to see who would play. The social member won the toss and elected to play at tight head prop. Such was the spirit of the Club.

During those early days, it was not uncommon for a visitor to Saudi Arabia to be told that if he had played rugby, he would be included in an away team and told to report to the Airport at 0600 hrs on a Thursday morning for a flight to Bahrain or Doha.

Early in 1974, with the help of enthusiastic members and a great deal of help from Laing Wimpey Alireza, a pitch was constructed at the far end of and between the two runways of Dhahran International Airport, which became the regular venue for all matches until April 1979.

In 1977, DRUFC, with a membership of 68 and the majority employed by Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), applied for and was granted the status of a self-directed Aramco Employee Association (AEA) group. In 1978, Aramco agreed to provide the land and finance to establish a new pitch, located on the original beach road to Half Moon Bay.

At about the same time, the club became a founder member of the Gulf Rugby Football Union (GRFU).

The Club relied heavily on the help and support of its opponents throughout the Gulf which enabled it to progress from 3 competitive games in the 1973/74 season (all against Bahrain in Bahrain) to 12 home and away fixtures in 1978/79 rising to 17 in 1985/86.

The original members among them Alston, Drowley, Flynn, Jones, Kates, Valentine and Watson could not have foreseen that a Thursday afternoon get-together could have resulted in today's very successful Club.


Part 2

Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club

About The Author

Arriving in Saudi Arabia in 1976 was like coming home, as Richard had been brought up in Kuwait as an “oilbrat” during the 1950s and 60s where his dad was Chief Health Officer for the Kuwait Oil Co. As a Chartered Accountant, Richard worked for Aramco in both Internal Audit and Contract Cost Compliance, but despite his father’s prowess as a golfer and his mother as a tennis player (Persian Gulf Oil Companies Lawn Tennis Association Ladies Champion in 1956), his social life gravitated to the Dhahran Rugby Club and amateur dramatics. He used his organising skills to become a representative on the Aramco Employees Association, Treasurer for DRUFC between 1976/77 and 1978/79, and then Chairman in 1979/80 before leaving in 1980. He continued with a varied finance career in shipping (Japan) automobiles (Guam) and dance education (UK).

Finally retiring in 2015, Richard and his husband live in London and he has used his time not only to continue travelling, but also to write Dance into Business for dance students wanting to start a business.

About this Article

The Unofficial History was produced to mark what would have been the approximate 50th Anniversary of the Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club (DRUFC) 1972- 2022, depending on what year you believe the club to have been established.

The Editor: Richard Thom first started playing rugby as a young boy in Scotland playing for the 1st XV at prep school, and then the Colts and 1st XV at Strathallan. He rediscovered rugby in Saudi Arabia, and not only played for the 1st and 2nd XVs on the wing but helped to keep the Club on track as Treasurer and Chairman. Moving to Japan after Saudi, Richard continued to play for the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club (YCAC) as second row for the 2nd XV, a far cry from the wing in Saudi.

Coming back to the UK in the mid-80s, it was the camaraderie among those in the club who played, supported or just joined in that helped to bond us all together to meet regularly and to mark the occasion with a "Not the May Ball," the third for which this booklet was produced.

Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club

The Contributors:

  • John Bailey 1975 - 1980
  • Mike Galbraith 1971
  • John Kates 1973 - 1975
  • Bill Flynn 1973 - 1975
  • Martin Watson 1974 – 1977
  • Stan Peters 1974 – 1978
  • Richard Thom 1976 – 1980
  • Mike Sullivan 1978 - 1984
  • Graham Vizor 1977 – 2007

The Supporters:

  • Carolyn Coles 1977 - 1985
  • Lesley Williams 1979 - 1986