League

District councils open to replacing respective teams

Kitchee

The Yuen Long District Council has revoked Yuen Long FC’s authorization to represent the District, opening the door for Pegasus to become Yuen Long’s new district team. Could more districts follow suit?

The Yuen Long District Council debated a motion on Tuesday morning which could signal a change in the relationship between district clubs and their representative teams. The motion, which was later unanimously approved by the pan-Democrats at the meeting, stripped Yuen Long Football Club of its official authorization from the YLDC to participate in HKFA sanctioned competitions on behalf of the District.

Under Paragraph 5.3 of the HKFA’s Competition Regulations, “District teams shall be appointed by respective District Councils (if they want to participate in any division of the Hong Kong Football League).” This rule allows district councils, such as the YLDC, to pull the recognition of a certain club as their district team if they so choose. Some councils, including Kowloon City and Islands, vote annually to re-authorize the appointment of their district teams while others, such as Sham Shui Po, Tai Po and Tseun Wan have not conducted any votes since their respective district teams were established in 2002. Until today, the YLDC had not reviewed the authorization of Yuen Long FC to organize a football team on behalf of the district since the team was established in 2013.

The situation is at the forefront at the moment after representatives from fourteen districts, along with local football supporters’ group “Support HK Football”, met with the HKFA on Monday to discuss the state of district teams in Hong Kong. Present at the meeting were Yuen Long District Councillor Tommy Cheung and Tai Po District Councillor Max Wu. Both had a keen eye on proceedings as their respective district clubs had recently pulled out of the Premier League.

Leading up to the meeting, 13 members co-sponsored a paper outlining six questions for debate Tuesday, including the question of whether to continue authorizing Yuen Long FC to represent the District. In the end, 23 members of the majority voted in favour of stripping the club of its authorization.

Both Cheung (left) and Wu (right) expressed an openness to replacing their current district teams. (Credit: Cheung and Wu’s Facebook pages)

Cheung: If Pegasus move back to Yuen Long…we will support them.

In expressing his frustration with Yuen Long FC’s decision to withdraw from the Premier League, Cheung says that he felt that the situation could have been avoided.

“When they decided to withdraw, we didn’t know about this until we saw the news on the HKFA’s website,” he claimed. In addition, Cheung stated on Monday that the YLDC wrote to club president Wilson Wong in January to discuss the state of the team, but never received a response.

For the councillor, this also prompted questions about the lack of oversight over the team which relies on the district council for a portion of its funding. At the council meeting on Tuesday, he proposed that the in future, the District must conduct an annual review of the authorization and put the right to represent the District out to public tender.

Although Yuen Long FC had intended to self-relegate, the act of stripping the club of its authorization may affect the club’s ability to return next season, or again in the future. However, Cheung told reporters that he was at peace with this notion.

“There’s a big gap between (the way that Yuen Long FC are run) and the way that district clubs are supposed to be held accountable. We are all sick and tired of them. I would rather not have a team next year than continue on like this.”

He revealed his aspiration for the YLDC to build a lasting relationship with Pegasus if the club were to return to the District.

“If they return to Yuen Long and use it as their home base, then we, as council, will throw all of our support behind them next year,” he promised. “We will help them in any way we can to lay down roots in the community and then, maybe a year from now, we can talk to them about a long-term commitment.

“We hope that over the next year, we will develop a close relationship with Pegasus. We don’t mind if Yuen Long’s district club has to start again from the Third Division. The history of the club will be erased but the most important thing is to solve the management problems and clarify the direction of the club. Maybe after next season is over, we can discuss how the two teams can co-operate.”

Yuen Long Stadium. (Credit: LCSD)

The YLDC’s decision opens the door for Pegasus to potentially apply to become Yuen Long’s new district team which, if successful, would allow the club to receive government funding. Cheung conveyed that both the YLDC and the Horsemen shared similar long-term plans for the district, which include the construction of a Kitchee style training ground.

Cheung also stated that if Pegasus returned, they would play at Yuen Long Stadium next season and move to Tin Shui Wai Sports Ground in 2021 whilst the former is rebuilt. Chan Bik-hing, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department Manager for Yuen Long, stated at today’s meeting that the department had not yet received an application for Pegasus to play at Yuen Long Stadium. At the same time, she confirmed that once an application had been received, the LCSD would make its facilities available to the club.

Wu: Tai Po FC refuses to attend council meeting

When questioned about the state of Tai Po Football Club, Wu told reporters on Monday that he had invited the club to attend the Tai Po District Council meeting next Tuesday, 7 July, but had yet to receive a response. More alarmingly, he revealed that the club had withdrawn its application for government funding.

“Tai Po FC has been authorized to organize a club since 2002 and every year since then, they’ve applied for funding,” he stated. “But last Friday, they withdrew their application. As I understand it, they no longer want the right to represent the district.

“I question why they want to forgo close to $800,000 in subsidies? Is it because they want to don’t want us to monitor those funds?”

It is understood that the club owe at least $450,000 in unpaid salaries from March alone after failing to reach an agreement with their main sponsor over a payment schedule. Last week, over 20 players reached out to the Labour Department for assistance in retrieving their salary arrears. Wu confirmed that the players had also reached out to him and that several councillors had lodged a complaint on behalf of the players, to the HKFA.

“We hope that Tai Po FC will come and explain the situation,” he continued. “The worst case scenario is that this has to be resolved through the courts and then the club declares bankruptcy. We really hope they don’t go from title winners to bankruptcy filers.”

Champions a year ago, Tai Po FC may declare bankruptcy and be replaced as the district’s representative team. (Credit: Tai Po)

At the meeting, it was mentioned that if Tai Po FC were unable to resolve their financial problems, the club’s membership could be suspended, but not cancelled. “The HKFA believes that membership is their jurisdiction, not the district council’s,” he said. “Even if there are financial problems or even if the club’s authorization is revoked, they can still retain their membership. I am very disappointed with these regulations.”

When asked whether the TPDC had considered replacing Tai Po FC as their representative, Wu confirmed that this had been discussed at the meeting. “The HKFA told me that as long as the new team was authorized in accordance with existing regulations…it will be approved by the board of directors”, he relayed.

While he did not believe that it was feasible for the District to find a replacement for the upcoming season, Wu left the door open to the possibility that in the future, more than one club with “Tai Po” in its name could exist within the football pyramid.

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