Domestic Cups

Fourth wave forces match postponements

Lee Man

The HKFA Cup group stage matches set for this weekend have been postponed while the HKFA continues negotiations with the government to continue the season under a bubble.

The Hong Kong Football Association announced on Thursday night that the HKFA Cup group stage matches scheduled for this coming weekend have been postponed in light of recent government restrictions.

On Tuesday, the government reintroduced limits to social gatherings to no more than two people while the Leisure and Cultural Services Department announced the temporary closure of many of its facilities, including facilities which may have been booked by Premier League clubs for training. The move was made due to a recent rise in locally transmitted cases of coronavirus – dubbed the ‘fourth wave’. Stringent lockdown measures were expected after 115 new cases were reported on Sunday, marking the highest single day figure since 1 August.

The HKFA held an emergency meeting with the clubs later on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the league’s response to the shutdown. It is believed that during the meeting, the clubs unanimously agreed to reinstate the protocols used during the restart of the 2019-20 season whereby players would undergo regular testing, home quarantine and would conduct all travel exclusively via private transport.

However, in order for matches to continue as scheduled, the HKFA needed to receive an exemption to the social gathering law. Because the government has yet to grant such an exemption, the HKFA were forced to postpone this weekend’s matches.

“The Chief Secretary for Administration, Matthew Chueng, is the one who needs to grant permission” HKFA chairman Pui Kwan-kay told reporters after he met with the HKFA’s Board of Directors on Thursday. “Our players need to train and play in order to work. These are essential parts of the job and I believe that these reasons are enough for us to get permission.”

The chairman hoped that the government would consider the fact that there were no positive cases detected during the restart. “We had a very successful restart and there were no cases of infection, so we are striving to continue the season in the same way. We’re confident that the government will approve our plans,” Pui said.

Although teams have suspended training indefinitely, the chairman believed that the situation differed from the restart in that the players are not coming off a long layoff. Thus, he confirmed that the clubs will only require two to three days of training ahead of the resumption of play.

In regards to earlier reports that training for the eight clubs may need to be centralized at the Football Training Centre, Pui claimed that the HKFA have “not considered” requiring all teams to train at the FTC. Furthermore, he stated that the plan is for teams to continue training and playing at their usual training facilities and home venues.

Should matches be held behind closed doors, the Board of Directors have approved up to $400,000 in funds to cover the broadcast fees for all remaining matches during the month of December. The chairman also noted that matches could be rescheduled for mid-week if necessary and did not believe that the schedule would not need to be adjusted drastically.

In addition to HKFA Cup matches, the HKFA notified clubs on Wednesday that all lower division and women’s league matches scheduled until 16 December would be postponed. The organization had earlier on Tuesday announced the temporary shutdown of the FTC between the 2nd to the 15th, as well as the postponement of two Reserve League matches scheduled for Wednesday night.

Hong Kong COVID-19 cases over the past two months. (Credit: Corona Tracker)

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