Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club
1974 I1st XV 1974/75 Captain Bruce Drowley.

Was this the beginning?

"I was a co-founder of the Dhahran Rugby Club in 1971 (I think) together with Peter Phillips who went on to also found a club in Salalah in Oman. He and I drove people who were working on the Dhahran Airbase as teachers, aircraft maintenance guys, or the TTI and wanted to play to the Aramco softball ground and kind of played without any posts. I think we might have even played a Royal Navy ship once. My recollection is that before that game we made a tour to Bahrain and played on the sand there. I was made Captain and I think an Irishman nicknamed Paddy (Patrick Shortt) was the Vice-Captain."

~Mike Galbraith 1971, now official historian YCAC Japan

(Mike Galbraith subsequently left in the same year, 1971, and, while he thought Paddy had become Captain, by the time John Kates arrived in 1973, there was no trace of the original efforts.)

Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club
Rugby Pitch – the ideal.

Perhaps this was?

"Here are a few thoughts from what I remember about the origins and activities of DRUFC, which Bill Flynn and I set up.

"During my tenure within the club, there was no formal (management) structure. We simply gathered on a weekly basis, typically Thursday afternoons, selected two teams from those that turned up (usually less than 15 men in the early days), and played a game amongst ourselves.

"I was the main recruiter of prospective players whilst Bill was responsible for providing the pitch. At that time Bill was working for Laing Wimpey Alireza, who had a contract at Dhahran Airport. Part of that contract involved having a grader, which he borrowed and used for levelling out a pitch in the sand (using lime powder for the pitch markings) at the end of the runway!

"The toughest task was the selection of a referee as, understandably, nobody wanted the role, which typically involved a great deal of debate/argument over the decisions made. We played until we were so exhausted we simply couldn’t go on any longer. After the games, we would retire to a player’s villa and consume large quantities of homemade beer.

Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club
Rugby Pitch – what greeted us.

"Most of the games were played at home, although we did play a number against Bahrain Rugby Club; one against Kuwait and another against Doha. Interestingly, in those days there was no causeway to the mainland hence we had to fly to Bahrain, a journey of some 5 minutes! Indeed, the pilots used to see who could do the flight in the shortest space of time. We would drive to Doha and Kuwait.

"Bahrain was a particularly popular game since there was a bar at the airport which served beer all day as well as being available in downtown hotels. The story goes that many visitors would land at Bahrain airport, stay there all day drinking and then return home in the evening. On one visit a number of the team members got into a punch-up in a downtown bar and ended up in the local jail for the night. I had to go to the police and offer to bail them out (Riyals 100 per head) in order for them to play in the game due that afternoon against The Warblers. Needless to say, we lost the game!

"To raise funds for the development of the club, I hit on the idea of having a Ball, the first ever in Saudi (and quite possibly the last). I designed a rather elaborate invitation and sold them at SR200 per head (approx. $50-60 at the time). It was to be staged at the Al-Khobar Al-Ghosaibi hotel in its new ballroom facility.

Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club
A lone spectator.

"I remember meeting with the Manager who said that the room had never been used. When I explained the details of the Ball, he retorted that I was crazy! All funds were to go to purchase rugby shirts, tracksuits and anything else that might be needed!

"Surprisingly, the ball tickets sold very well - about 200 of them - throughout the expatriate working community. I found two bands, one from the local community and one from the US Air Force base. Everybody had a marvelous time.

"Club membership comprised mainly UK ex-pats working for companies like BAC, DHL, Laing Wimpey, etc. The players were a combination of codes - both rugby union and league.

"Finally, you all will remember that the true definition of a Saudi expatriate was one who knew the meaning of RATS (Saudi Riyals), SID (Siddiqi) and CLICKS (KLM)."

~John Kates 1973 – 1975
Captain 1973/74 and Secretary 1974/75 1975/76


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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