‘Football Development in Hong Kong’ – Implementation of recommendations

 In Recreation & Sports
,

Mr Tsang Tak-sing
Secretary for Home Affairs
Home Affairs Bureau
31/F Southorn Centre
130 Hennessy Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong

 

Dear Mr Tsang,

 

‘Football Development in Hong Kong’ – Implementation of recommendations

 

We are writing with reference to the December 2009 Final Report of consultants Scott Wilson entitled ‘Football Development in Hong Kong’ to put forward suggestions for your kind consideration.

 

First of all, we would like to express our appreciation that the Government has taken the step of commissioning the report. The release of the report is most timely, coming as it does in the wake of Hong Kong’s remarkable football victory in the East Asian Games. The report is a thoughtful analysis of the situation in Hong Kong, providing a good base of facts on the territory’s football development and problems, together with analysis of the situation in other countries. We also largely agree with the substantive recommendations.

 

Our concern is with the report’s proposed way of implementing its recommendations, namely via the HKFA. As the report explains in detail, the HKFA has presided over an era of decline and is not currently in a fit state to launch the necessary initiatives. The report recommends governance reform, injection of government funds and other measures to revitalise the HKFA. However, there must be serious doubts as to whether such ‘force feeding’ could be successful. We understand that the HKFA has accepted the report’s proposals. Nonetheless, without passionate committed leadership, the revitalisation initiative seems likely to fail.

 

Need for champions
The government resources and the good ideas in the report are needed, but the critical thing is to find champions who can take up the challenge of revitalisation. We suggest that the search for champions should look beyond the existing HKFA. It may be that there are individuals or organisations out there who at present find their way blocked by the HKFA and who would emerge if the way were unblocked.

 

The development of rugby football in Hong Kong provides a good example of what can be done. Largely as a result of private sector initiative, including private individuals securing sponsorship from major companies, Hong Kong has developed a good foundation of local rugby players, who won silverware in the recent Sevens competition for the first time as a wholly local team. The Sevens itself is a world-class event, arguably Hong Kong’s only world-class sporting event. How can something comparable be achieved for football – which has potentially far greater resources and numbers of players to draw upon?

 

The aim must be to foster a virtuous circle for local football, such that the infusion of new resources stimulates the emergence of better teams which in turn attract larger crowds and more sponsorship. As the report rightly says, there must be pump-priming, but it must be pump-priming aimed at fostering a self-sustaining development trend.

 

However, such solution in turn depends on individuals coming forward with interest and passion to take the game to a new level. How can such champions be found?

 

We suggest that serious consideration should be given to holding an open tender in some form for the franchise to manage Hong Kong football for a fixed period, say 5 years, with option to renew, conditional upon achievement of given targets, for a further five.  Depending on legal considerations, this could involve ‘deregistering’ the existing HKFA and ‘registering’ a new organisation as the HKFA, or allowing the setting up of an alternative football association. The franchise could be defined in terms of the to-be-provided resources and targets indicated in the consultant’s report, but allowing scope for the tendering parties to come up with their own creative ideas. Such a move would allow interested individuals, together with their sponsors, to emerge and take up the task of leadership. It would also appear a more effective strategy than trying to ‘force feed’ the existing HKFA with measures imposed from above.

 

Role of Jockey Club
The report mentions the Jockey Club’s willingness to develop and manage a new national football training centre for Hong Kong. This is welcome and to the Jockey Club’s credit. However, we believe that the onus is very much on the Jockey Club to support and provide resources for the revitalisation of football in Hong Kong because by promoting betting on overseas football matches, the Jockey Club has been a major factor diverting attention away from Hong Kong domestic football, and has made a great deal of money thereby. The Jockey Club has, no doubt inadvertently, been ‘part of the problem’, and should now endeavour to make up by becoming ‘part of the solution’. We attach our recent paper on the subject.

 

Other point
As a point of detail, the report does not examine the question of referees. Unfortunately, Hong Kong referees do not seem to perform particularly well at a high level, and their decisions are not necessarily respected, e.g. in international games. Initiatives are needed to train and groom referees for higher levels of performance, as they make a crucial contribution to the quality of the game.

 

We hope that our suggestions are helpful.

 

Yours sincerely,

Alan Lung Ka-lun (家麟)

Chairman, Hong Kong Democratic Foundation (香港民主促會主席)

15 April 2010

 

 

 

 

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