Football will not resume until January 2021 if the HKFA agrees with the proposal backed by a majority of clubs.
In light of the Hong Kong Football Association’s decision to suspend all Premier League matches until 13 April at the earliest, and ahead of an all-important meeting with the board of the HKFA next Tuesday, representatives from five Premier League clubs met Thursday afternoon to discuss proposals on how to move forward.
Present at the meeting were Rangers director Philip Lee, Southern chairman Chan Man-chun, Pegasus boss Steven Lo, and Eastern head coach and director of football Lee Chi-kin. Kitchee president Ken Ng, who is currently in self-quarantine following the positive coronavirus diagnosis of Roberto Losada, did not attend the meeting in person but participated via video conferencing.
Two proposals were discussed at the meeting. The first would have postponed the 44 remaining league matches and three cup finals until September. The second would have postponed all matches until January, upon which play would resume with the three cup finals. A single round robin of matches would be played between January and mid-February involving the current top five in the league in order to determine the league champions. Hong Kong’s two Asian entrants would continue to be the FA Cup champions and the league champions.
Both proposals would move the start of next season to the third week of February and the conclusion to November, two years ahead of the HKFA’s plan to align the season with the calendar year.
It is believed that, in addition to the five clubs represented at the meeting, Yuen Long, Tai Po and Lee Man all support the second proposal. Happy Valley posted a statement on Thursday night explaining that because they were not invited to the meeting, they were not “briefed on the details of the proposals and thus had not expressed their opinions on the discussions in any form.”
When reached for comment, R&F declined to state which direction they were leaning. However, sources close to the club have indicated that they oppose the second proposal and prefer, instead, to award the title based on the current table. Earlier in the month, head coach Yeung Ching-kwong told reporters that he would accept playing additional matches to determine Asian qualification but would not accept “scrapping the results for this season.”
Bosses demand greater certainty
Speaking afterwards to the media, three of the attendees conveyed the need for decisive action in a time of uncertainty for clubs. Lo expressed that there were too many hurdles to continuing the season, including the ban on gatherings of four or more as well as player contract issues. Time was of the essence, therefore, he concluded that the best option would be to end the season and start up again in 2021.
“If next season starts in September, it’s going to be too difficult for clubs to find sponsors during this economic downturn,” he said. “This is our chance to align our schedule with the rest of (East) Asia while giving clubs more time to prepare for next season.”
Philip Lee, whose club announced on Wednesday that they had sent some of their foreign players home, confirmed that Rangers would cease training and pay out the remainder of all player contracts. He also warned local players to be “mentally prepared as there may be no football for a half year.”
Lee Chi-kin was pleased that his club’s cup final entries would be honoured but agreed that it would be impossible to play football in the short term.
“We don’t really have a choice of whether we want to play or not because the pandemic has handcuffed us,” he admitted. “At present, I can’t see this being resolved in the next two months. If it’s determined that the season won’t go on, then we’ll have to sit down with the players and resolve their contracts.”
Lee reiterated that the proposal was only a suggestion and nothing more at this point. The HKFA will need to deliberate with the clubs on the 7th and make a final decision.
Players need to “cherish the opportunity” says Pegasus captain
In a Facebook post Thursday afternoon, Pegasus captain and former Hong Kong international Chan Wai-ho reminded players not to take anything for granted, even during these troubled times.
His comments, translated, are as follows:
“The latter years of my career have been quite colourful. South China self-relegated, Dreams also self-relegated and this season may be further postponed or even cut short. I couldn’t end my career in a drama-free year even if I wanted to.
But if you look at it in a positive way, it is because Hong Kong football is so unpredictable that every time I’m able to step onto the pitch and play, I cherish it even more.
The challenges posed by the current pandemic are unprecedented. It is much more serious than the 2003 SARS crisis and it may even bring about an ‘ice age’ in a footballing sense so I hope after this situation passes, all footballers will act like it’s a crisis all the time.
Don’t allow yourself to believe that when professional football is stable, it will always stay that way and take it for granted. Cherish the opportunities your club has given you and cherish most the days when there are matches to play.”