Thursday 18 March 2010

Football Association in Hong Kong Advised to Reform

The government has released a consultancy report about the future of football in Hong Kong, citing several key recommendations.

These include that the Hong Kong Football Association should reform its governance and make its decision-making processes more transparent; improve the level of professional expertise and experience in its secretariat; develop junior and district soccer; form a professional league; and strengthen the Hong Kong representative teams at different levels.

No doubt, the consultancy report's recommendations will also affect referees in Hong Kong. HKRef and other referees here await to see what the implications will be.

HK soccer must change or die, say legislators (South China Morning Post)
Chan Kin-wa
Mar 18, 2010

There will be no future for soccer if the Hong Kong Football Association refuses to implement changes proposed in a consultancy study, legislators said yesterday.

Members of the Legislative Council's home affairs panel are concerned about the association's willingness to make the recommended changes to save the sport.

"I know the association needs a 75 per cent majority [from its 55 member clubs] if they want to implement changes in accordance with the many recommendations put forward by the study," lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said.

"But even the government's constitutional changes require only a two-thirds majority of this council and you know how difficult the soccer reform will be, especially as it involves a lot of vested interests by various parties.

"But since the government is using a lot of manpower and resources in the reform, there is hope. The fans love Hong Kong soccer but they do not want any more disappointments, otherwise they will never turn up at local matches and instead watch the Premier League or La Liga."

The report, which was released by the government last week, says the football association has to agree to a reform process so the restructured body will decide on the constitution, governance structure and organisation that will best serve the sport. It must improve the level of professional expertise and experience in its secretariat.

The study also makes several recommendations, including setting up a professional league, developing junior and district soccer, providing facilities including a six-pitch training centre at a Tseung Kwan O landfill site and strengthening the Hong Kong representative teams at different levels.

But it was governance of the association's board and its transparency in decision making that dominated the panel's discussion.

One lawmaker, Peter Cheung Kwok-che, said that if the association failed to bring in changes, the administration should help set up another body to replace it.

"The FA will have the main role in making the reforms but if they cannot take on the responsibility, the government should set up another organisation independent of the FA to carry out the recommendations," Cheung said.

Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said that was a hypothetical situation and cited an example in the study that Fifa, the controlling body for world soccer, would come down hard on any government intervention. He said earlier that the association would need HK$75 million to HK$100 million over the next five years to implement the changes, but refused to say if the government would foot the entire bill.

"The funding may not come solely from the government. If the sport can grow steadily, it will be able to attract support from the commercial field and the community. Soccer is big business in many other parts of the world and it may soon be the same in Hong Kong," he said.

Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak assured the panel he would use all his powers to persuade member clubs to implement the changes. "We know we are in a critical situation and if we don't reform the organisation, soccer in Hong Kong cannot survive," he said.

"As the chairman, I asked the government two years ago to engage in a consultancy study to save the sport and there is no point in not following the recommendations. The 75 per cent majority for making reforms is a big obstacle but if we are all here for the best interests of the sport, we can overcome it.

"The report only outlines the principles of the reform but not the details, such as how to change the board's composition and its decision-making process.

"We will have to sit down with the government next week to work out all the details with a workable timetable so I can take them back to member clubs for discussion before the changes are to be implemented. If the clubs agree, we have to call a general meeting to endorse these changes."

There are 55 FA-affiliated clubs, including teams in the first, second and third divisions and three accredited members.

It is believed Leung already has the backing of more than half the clubs.

Leslie Santos, a former Hong Kong soccer star, who attended yesterday's meeting along with other retired players, said the association should grab the opportunity.

"We all know there have been different factions within the FA with their vested interests," said Santos, who now runs a school for the development of junior players. "It's time for change and to work together for the betterment of the sport. If we miss this chance, we may never get another one."

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