For a woman, there seems little doubt that a personal journey within the distinctive and challenging field of sports development in the GCC region is not easy. And for Dalal Al Dossary, hailing as she does from Saudi Arabia, the journey has been especially challenging, given that the field of sports is mostly dominated by men both in Saudi Arabia itself and the Gulf region as a whole.
Saudi women, like most women around the world, have different social and cultural roles within their society, but the field of sport is particularly rife with contradiction. To the international eye, women are repressed within the sporting culture, but this is not strictly the case. For example, it is not completely true that women are forbidden to undertake sports in Saudi Arabia – witness the example of Sarah Attar who attended the London 2012 Olympics, or the number of women-only gyms around the country, and the development of sports in private schools.
For Dalal Al Dossary this complexity simply presented yet another challenge to be overcome. Through her knowledge, dedication and, above all, her exceptional determination to overcome barriers, she has managed to combine her knowledge of CSR with the world of sport through her role as the founder and managing director of CSR solutions agency ‘Impact CSR Solutions’. The aim of Impact is, quite simply, to provide innovative CSR solutions for sports associations. Al Dossary’s journey within the sports industry commenced with the Saudi Professional League Commission in Riyadh as AFC file manager. She has also worked in community relations for Qatar Local Organizing Committee – Asian Cup Qatar 2011, where she manufactured a one of a kind programme to facilitate the needs of the disabled within sports stadiums.
Impact’s clients include Al Sadd Sports Club, Cooper Sport Advertising Agency, Qatar Paralympic Committee, Qatar Women’s Sport Committee, Commercial Bank of Qatar, Qatar Foundation for Combating Human Trafficking, Al Marai, Saudi Arabian Football Confederation- SAFF, General Presidency for Youth & Welfare, and Global Peace Foundation, among others. In an interview with BQ Magazine, Al Dossary talks about her journey in this unique field.
What inspired you to get into this line of work?
I have always been inspired by the human desire and ability to make a difference in the lives of people or organizations, and the amazing results that can be achieved when we actually implement that ability to the full. So, it was not a surprise for me to specialize in such development, utilizing CSR as a developmental driver. For sport, globally recognised as a male dominated industry, it was a great challenge for me on all levels – personally, professionally and socially. I felt a deep impulse to prove that gender is not the decisive factor in success – male or female, what really matters is productivity and results.
How did your background lead to build a sport CSR solutions agency?
My education, academically and professionally, along with my work experience within the field of sport, has provided me with a very solid knowledge base for engendering social development. I have a Masters in Sports CSR from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and now I’m doing my doctorate with the University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus) in professional business administration. I am able to apply my knowledge, and consequent service without hesitation and with confidence. I founded Impact CSR in 2011, and we have continued to build and grow with every project, gaining both trust and reputation along the way.
You have created the first disabled-friendly stadium in Qatar. Could you please tell us more about this?
I was determined to follow both international standards and best practice in order to introduce this new concept into our culture. I firmly believe that I can only leave a legacy if I initiate projects that solve current or expected future problems. For me, this project was a means to address the physical barriers faced by spectators with disabilities, enabling them to truly and easily enjoy matches as a social event. What makes it even more special is the replication of this project in Saudi Arabia. As the saying goes, “imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”
In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to watch football matches in stadiums, so how do you feel the situation has improved for women involved in sports?
Well, I feel that it is culturally narrow minded for people to keep focusing on this, as we actually do have a number of local female sport writers, columnists, photographers, researchers, investors and even club board members – facts that are often completely ignored. Moreover, the Saudi Olympic committee has recently hired female employees and is open to appointing female committee members. The call is increasing for more women to become involved in sports globally, and in Saudi Arabia I can clearly see positive developments growing at a rapid pace.
There is much talk about fostering and inspiring changes within female perceptions, but there does seem a considerable way to go before that change is fully realised. How can you, or other women like you, be a more effective part of that change?
Change is universal, and it is necessary to see transformation in every country for the greater good, and not limited to women’s issues. We all have a choice to cooperate with one another to achieve our own particular national visions, and strive for a better tomorrow for all.
What do you think the future holds within sport for women in this region?
As the recently elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino said so correctly: “Women are part of the solution.” And with regards to the problems that have plagued the football world governing body, they pledged to hire more women for top jobs. This will definitely open the doors for women throughout the world; not just within this region, as other member associations follow suit. Naturally it will also create greater opportunities, and make it a smoother process for women to enter the sporting industry.
How do you think sports CSR can help communities in Qatar and the region?
Statistics from the Qatar Olympic Committee (2015) have stated that the country has hosted or will host 90 sporting events, with that target increasing in the years leading up to the mega sport event of FIFA World Cup 2022. This means that with such a heavy emphasis placed upon sport, corporate responsibility will come into play in a way that has never been more relevant or more powerful. Indeed, it is a prime opportunity to open the doors of communication by addressing the needs of the community. One responsible action will lead to another, producing a ripple effect, and will create strong ties of unity within the community and beyond. The beauty is that even subtle efforts over time will prove to be well worth the work.
What are your future plans for Impact CSR Solutions?
With a lack of professional education specializing in sport CSR, we are in the final stages of accrediting certified training courses in the Arabic language. One cannot move forward without proper knowledge, and with our special expertise in sport, as well as the fact that we are firmly rooted in this region, we feel that it is our responsibility to make our knowledge available locally in our own language. In this way, Impact CSR can engender the true spirit of the pioneer. We can open doors to change at a local and then at a national level. We are determined in our aim to advance our ability both to watch and to play sport, despite the significant challenges we face. And we will utilise all our knowledge, focus and determination to achieve our precious dreams in the most effective, co-operative and dignified way possible. In sport, there is always a way to win.