Friday, July 1, 2011

Changes afoot in Hong Kong

By Yick Hong Lam - AFF Hong Kong correspondent

A new Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) board was elected at the latest HKFA Annual General Meeting at 28 June.

Brian Leung Hung-tak was re-elected as the Chairman and the nine board members were automatically re-elected as they were no other candidates.

The Chairman expressed concern over the budget for the government's Phoenix Project - which aims to reform and enhance the local professional football - after the meeting. He estimated the running cost per year of the new league structure will be HK$30 million (US$4 million), which is a large sum that HKFA nor the investors in domestic football can afford.

Board member Steven Lo Kit-sing, who is also the owner of South China FC, pointed out the money issue in domestic football.

"Offer the champions a winning purse of HK$10 million( US$ 1.3 million) and there will be a lot of clubs who are willing to spend."

According to Steven Lo, increasing the winning purse will be a quick fix to promote domestic football. As clubs will invest much more money to pursue the championships, it will result a better quality league and attract fans.

The current HK$120,000 (around US$15,000) league champions bonus can hardly form the basis for a competitive league as clubs won't increase their spending to bid for such small return.

Under the guidance of Steven Lo, the domestic powerhouse South China spent HK$30 million (US$4.9 million) last season, while the other domestic clubs generally spent less then HK$10 million (US$ 1.3 million) a season.

However, the spending of South China will also cut to HK$20 million(US$ 2.6 million) next season due to the departure of two highly paid international football stars, Nicky Butt and Mateja Kezman.

Also, failure to win the league and Silver Shield Cup also meant the club did not qualify to play in next year's AFC Cup. The team has also been eliminated from the cup in group stage this year. All of this means the club has little need to establish a large and strong squad in the coming season.

On the other hand, the current Hong Kong league champions Kitchee SC have announced the budget for next season will be increased to HK$12 million 
(US$ 1.5 million), aimed to retain the championship and also go far in the AFC Cup.

In although South China have no plan to sign another high profile player, they did appoint a high profile head coach for next season and plan to add at least three foreign players into the squad.

Jan Kocian, former Czech international who played in the 1990 FIFA World Cup quarter finals, and former national team manager of Slovakia from 2006 to 2008, has already signed a pre-contract with South China. He will sign the contract in July to make everything official.

Jan Kocian only coached 5 games for Jiangsu Sainty before being sacked by the Chinese Super League side. The Chinese media listed the poor communication skills of the coach as part of the reason for his sacking along with the poor results, with 1 draw and 4 losses.

However, Steven Lo Kit-sing has high confidence in the coach with vast European coaching experience and considered the failure of the coach's first spell in Asia due to cultural difference. 

He has met the coach in person and was impressed by some interesting ideas. Jan Kocian will also be responsible for recruiting the foreign players to fit his system and tactics, from a pool of 50 overseas players.

Steven Lo said the target of the club in next season is
to challenge for all domestic titles.



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  2. We hope that they can do a better job this year and they can improve their team to play better internationally.