Mainland based R&F also called for clubs in Hong Kong to break away and form an independent entity to manage the Premier League, presumably with a high degree of autonomy.
In a bombshell letter sent to the management of every Premier League club on Saturday, R&F called for the immediate termination of the season and for the establishment of an independent entity to manage the Premier League.
The letter comes on the heels of a week in which it was revealed that the HKFA had mistranslated several of FIFA’s directives and misled clubs on the dates for the summer transfer window, as well as player eligibility rules for players who transfer during the window. Several club representatives were unhappy with the revelations, with some labelling the HKFA as “unprofessional” and others demanding “introspection” from the organization.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, R&F general manager Tyler Kwok suggested that if FIFA did not grant an exemption to the HKFA and allow players who transfer to play immediately, then the remainder of the season should be cancelled. However, it is believed that he now favours immediate termination, without awaiting FIFA’s response.
In the letter, Kwok’s listed several grievances against the HKFA, criticizing the organization’s “unstable” policies for creating financial strain on the clubs and causing them to lose money. He described the governing body as “exhausting” to deal with, both on a physical and emotional level.
The general manager reaffirmed R&F investor Li Silian’s commitment to improving the standard of Hong Kong football, stating that it “has not wavered”. On the other hand, he argued that during this current period of chaos and uncertainty, clubs ought to be more united than ever and collectively plan the long term development of local football.
To these ends, Kwok made four suggestions to the clubs:
- The Premier League season must be terminated immediately and the table to be made final. No champion shall be named for the 2019-20 season.
- The HKFA Cup Final between R&F and Eastern shall be the only match from the current season to be made up. Hong Kong’s two Asian berths shall be determined during said match.
- The individuals at the HKFA who either misinterpreted or mistranslated FIFA’s guidelines must be held accountable.
- Preparations be made at once to establish an independent entity which will manage the Hong Kong Premier League, modelled after the English Premier League.
On the final point, Kwok believes a privatized Premier League would be able to better maximize the commercial value of its product, as well as the revenue streams of its clubs. The league would also be responsible for designing youth training programs to increase the standard of local players. He believes that all of this is necessary in order for the rebirth of local football, which was promised under Project Phoenix, to be realized.
AFC allows member associations to pick teams for 2021 AFC Cup
While it is unknown whether R&F would be eligible for Asian competition, the HKFA may be able to deviate from the AFC’s usual rules regarding the awarding of its Asian berths. In an interview with a Bangladeshi newspaper, Bangladesh Football Federation general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag said that the AFC had asked member associations for updates on the status of their respective leagues due to the circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic.
The AFC is requesting MA’s to submit proposals on how they want to determine their respective Asian berths. According to Shohag, the AFC is asking clubs who wish to participate in Asian competition to apply for an AFC Club License by July and for MA’s to submit the names of their representative clubs in November.
AFC rules normally require that the league champion and the federation cup champion represent any nation which participates in the AFC Cup. However, Shohag claims that the AFC has “taken reality into consideration” and allowed MA’s to bypass these rules, if necessary. This would allow the HKFA to adopt R&F’s suggestions to cancel the league season and award AFC Cup berths based on the HKFA Cup.
Adding an extra layer of complexity is the extent to which Hong Kong will participate in the AFC Cup next season. The Champions League is set to be expanded to 40 clubs next season, and Hong Kong – who are currently the 11th ranked MA in East Asia – are set to be awarded a playoff spot. However, even before the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, there were reports that North Korea had been banned from sending teams to Asian competitions for two years. This would allow the HKFA to send the Premier League champion directly into the group stage of the 2021 Champions League.
With the current editions of the Champions League and the AFC Cup yet to be completed, there is still much to be determined before next season’s berths are confirmed.