The HKFA’s Appeals Committee have accepted the appeals of Pegasus and Happy Valley, meaning that both clubs’ matches this weekend will be played as scheduled.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Hong Kong Football Association’s Appeals Committee have voted to allow Pegasus and Happy Valley to resume play immediately, allowing both clubs to take to the pitch this weekend.
The AC convened for an extraordinary meeting on Saturday morning after the two embattled clubs lodged a challenge to the Disciplinary Committee’s judgment on Monday. The DC found that both clubs had failed to pay insurance premiums under the collective Premier League insurance scheme which provides players and staff with insurance coverage. As punishment, the DC barred both clubs from playing until proof of payment was confirmed, plus a further seven days.
Both clubs then scrambled to pay off their debt on Tuesday morning. Pegasus were first to obtain proof of payment from the insurance company, having done so an hour before the judgment took effect at noon Tuesday. Later on Tuesday, Happy Valley announced that they were able to work out a payment plan with the insurance company.
In their decision, the AC wrote, “The Appeals Committee considered the effect of the pandemic on local football, the needs of stakeholders and the fact that both clubs have settled their debts, and have, therefore, ruled in favour of Happy Valley and Pegasus.”
The AC’s decision will enrage observers who believe that the DC were in the right. They will argue that the rules in the matter were clear: both clubs had been warned multiple times about missing the deadline and stiff punishment was needed to deter future rule breaking. Furthermore, they will argue that the AC’s ruling is another sign of that the HKFA are more willing to bend their own rules than enforce them.
On the contrary, the biggest critics of the DC’s judgment were fellow Premier League clubs.
Rangers director Philip Lee, whose club stood to benefit if Pegasus were to forfeit Sunday’s match between the two teams, called the prospect a “meaningless victory”. Rangers were also one of seven clubs who co-signed a letter to the Board of Directors on Friday, asking for the HKFA’s support and co-operation so that the season can be played out successfully.
It appears that while the clubs who paid their premiums on time may feel that was unfair for Pegasus and Valley to receive extra time and escape punishment, they nevertheless believe that it is their best interests to ensure that the league does not lose any more teams. Thus, they have made a pragmatic calculation, in spite of any perceived unfairness or moving of the goalposts.
Although the AC have ruled in favour of the two clubs, it was not immediately known whether Happy Valley’s Sapling Cup semi-final against Lee Man would be rescheduled. But, Valley’s chairman Pui Kwan-kay, who is also the chairman of the HKFA, endorsed the view that if the appeal was successful, the rematch should indeed be played at a later date.