HKFA contemplating suspension of promotion and relegation

Tai Po

If the Premier League season is abandoned, the fallout could send shockwaves down the rest of the pyramid.

The Hong Kong Football Association announced last week the suspension of all Premier League matches until the 13th of April. While it is believed that the fate of the season will be determined at all clubs meeting on the 7th, rumours regarding the consequences of early termination have recently begun to surface.

Sources told Apple Daily over the past weekend that if Premier League season cannot continue, the HKFA has notified the clubs that it will consider suspending promotion and relegation across the entire pyramid. It is believed that as the pandemic worsens, there is a greater likelihood that this solution will be enacted.

Although the lower divisions operate on a simple two-up, two-down system as determined by the table, movement between the Premier League and the First Division is often determined by the ability of clubs to field a professional side. Over the past six seasons, Hong Kong has seen First Division champions decline the right to go up, non-champions apply successfully for promotion, and most notably, seen a storied club choose to self-relegate despite finishing well above the drop zone in the Premier League.

It is understood that the HKFA will seek clarity over which clubs will remain in the top flight as soon as possible. Once the number of clubs willing to participate in next season’s Premier League campaign is known, the HKFA may adjust the number of teams who go up or down in each league, or, freeze movement altogether.

Pui Kwan-kay “worried” LCSD venues will remain closed

The HKFA’s suspension of the Premier League came after the Leisure and Cultural Services Department’s blanket closure of all its venues for the second time this year. In the intervening week since the announcement, the possibility of resumption has become increasingly bleak.

Last Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam banned public gatherings of more than four people.

On Saturday evening, Kitchee released a statement saying that the spouse of an unnamed staff member had tested “preliminarily positive (sic)” for coronavirus after returning from an overseas trip. The club announced on Monday that not had the spouse’s case been confirmed as positive, but the staff member – believed to be Roberto Losada – had also produced a “preliminarily positive” test. Furthermore, the first team and coaching staff will be tested, with results known as early as Wednesday.

In addition, a government source revealed that city officials will discuss on Tuesday the use of sports and exhibition facilities to house patients with “no infection symptoms” and whom “would not require oxygen support.” These facilities may include Premier League grounds, further complicating a resumption of the league.

Kitchee players and staff will know whether they have the coronavirus as early as Wednesday. (Credit: Kitchee)

HKFA chairman Pui Kwan-kay said in an interview on Monday that everything is uncertain at the moment. “The HKFA is waiting for Kitchee’s results to come in before we follow up,” he said. “Some of their staff came and visited our headquarters earlier so we will have to conduct some deep cleaning operations.

“Originally, we were going to meet on 7 April to talk about how we were going to get on with the rest of the season but, because of the government’s ban on gatherings of four or more, we may have to do it over video conferencing or some other method.

“I’m worried that the LCSD’s closures will be extended. At this moment, I can’t tell you what the fate of the Premier League season will be.

“The most important thing right now is that everyone’s looking after their health.”

Earlier this month, Pui had said that it was exceeding likely that the lower division seasons would be cut short. When asked about the situation, he responded that the matter would be discussed at a future HKFA board meeting.

“Once we have a decision, we will let you know but as of now, there has been no final decision,” Pui assured.

Asked about Resources Capital, the only club outside the top flight to express a desire to compete in the Premier League next season, the chairman noted that he would send a staff member to follow up with them.

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