Bahrain Rugby Football Club (RFC) started life as a section of the British Club in 1971 before becoming its own separate entity in 1974 and taking up residence at a small ground on the perimeter of the main runway at Bahrain International Airport.

The early years brought regular fixtures against local sides and the occasional touring team but the club’s ambition was to be instrumental in the formation of the first regional leagues, under the auspices of the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU).

With the expanding rugby programme, Bahrain RFC moved to a new home in Saar in 1977, where it was to establish itself as one of the strongest clubs in the Middle East, both on and off the pitch.

The 1980s was arguably the golden era for Bahrain on the field of play as they dominated proceedings across the annual Arabian Gulf League, Arabian Gulf Cup and Dubai Sevens competitions. Indeed, such was the club’s reputation and strength at the time that it was frequently asked to represent the Arabian Gulf representative team in its entirety.

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The onset of the Gulf War in the early 1990s forced the suspension of the Arabian Gulf League but Bahrain continued to host regional neighbour teams as well as providing a welcome outlet for military sides in a fruitful relationship that continues to this day.

Another significant development in 1991 was the club’s formal recognition by an association with the General Organisation for Youth and Sports – now the Ministry of Youth and Sport – which enabled renewed confidence in future endeavours to promote both the club and its adopted country.

Success continued for Bahrain RFC on the pitch into the 1990s but by then, the club had also started to expand its sports programmes, with the introduction of ladies netball and junior and veterans’ rugby putting increased pressure on facilities. Thankfully, a new site was identified in nearby Janabiyah and the landlord, Shaikh Attiatullah bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, kindly provided every assistance in developing the next home of Bahrain RFC.

Among the standout features of the new facility when it first opened its doors in 1995 was a full grass playing pitch (a luxury in Gulf rugby circles at the time), as well as a sand training pitch, two netball courts, a custom-built clubhouse and changing rooms. The impressive venue was duly selected to host the first ever Rugby World Cup qualifying match to be staged in the region, as the Arabian Gulf hosted Botswana in 1997.

From this point on, Bahrain RFC’s sports offerings really began to take off, with football, cricket and Gaelic football beginning to establish themselves on the weekly schedule. To cater for the increasing number of participants coming through the doors, the restaurant was formally opened in 1999.

Another significant moment took place at the club in 1999, as Bahrain RFC took on the Bahrain Defence Force XV in the presence of his Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, who honoured the club both with the invitation and by personally kicking off the match.

The opening of a 25m swimming pool was a welcome addition to the facilities in 2002 and further developments have taken place almost on an annual basis, including the addition of a children’s playground; a third grass pitch; an AstroTurf all-weather pitch; a number of new bars; an ATM; a fully-equipped gymnasium; an indoor sports hall; a second catering outlet and a function room, to name a few.

During this period, the club also continued to regularly play host to a range of significant sports and social events, such as the annual Bahrain Gaelic Games; the InterGulf Netball Championships; open-air concerts; guest speakers; charity dinners; sports days and more.

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With the rapid growth of the number of active clubs and the level of competition in neighbouring UAE cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, success on the field has not been so easy to come by in recent years and, although the Arabian Gulf Cup was secured in 2009 and the final Arabian Gulf Premiership title – before the disbandment of the AGRFU – made its way to Bahrain the following year, Bahrain has otherwise struggled to compete for top honours.

The recruitment of the club’s first full-time Director of Rugby – along with a number of newly recruited players from the UK and Australasia – however, has seen a significant turnaround in fortunes with Bahrain duly reaching the West Asia Cup Final in 2017 and are currently continuing to challenge for silverware at the top level of all regional competitions.

From its humble beginnings almost 50 years ago, Bahrain RFC now boasts in excess of 3,000 members participating in a packed schedule of activities and events every week and still strive to ensure the legendary welcome and hospitality live on.