The HKFA reveal that only six clubs have applied for a Premier League license next season, while Pegasus have deferred a decision until the end of the month. The league and cup competition formats could be altered as a result.
The Hong Kong Football Association are preparing for the worst-case scenario of a six-team Premier League next season, says chairman Pui Kwan-kay. The stunning revelation was made after the conclusion of the HKFA board meeting on Thursday afternoon where the chairman confirmed that only six Premier League club license applications have been received.
After Happy Valley announced their intention to drop out at the beginning of the month due to salary arrears, Pegasus, who had also encountered financial difficulties, were the next club to be thrust into the spotlight. The club are reportedly on the hook for $4 million in arrears as boss Steven Lo’s restaurant business has taken a massive hit during the pandemic.
“The number of teams who have confirmed their participation is six,” Pui announced to reporters, following the end of the four-hour meeting. “Pegasus have written to the HKFA to inform us that they’ll know at the end of July whether they’ll participate.
“Obviously, I want as many teams as possible, but the Filipino league also has six teams and they play a quadruple round-robin, which fulfills the Asian Football Confederation’s 27 match requirement.”
The chairman added that the HKFA are considering the reinstatement of the Senior Shield and changes to the format of the cup competitions as possible solutions to meet the AFC’s mandate if the number of teams fall to six.
Lee asks HKFA to do more to help clubs
Local football is facing challenges it has not seen since the Ice Age in the early 2000s. In light of this, Rangers director of football Philip Lee revealed on Wednesday that his club were on the fence regarding their participation in next season’s Premier League.
“I can’t say for certain that we would continue to participate if there were only five or six teams left,” he confided. “We need at least eight teams, but are (the HKFA) doing anything about this? It’s like they don’t even care.”
Lee suggested that the HKFA should actively try and invite HKFC, North District, Tai Po and Yuen Long to come up and questioned whether HKFA had any regard for the few investors who were willing to sink money into local football.
“This is the moment of truth: Are they willing to divert a portion of the funding they receive from the government to subsidize broadcast fees, insurance premiums and venue rentals? Let’s not waste government resources,” he implored.
Pui responded to Lee’s comments on Thursday by stating that the HKFA are, in fact, trying to recruit First Division clubs to promote, but argued that this was not feasible in the short term due to funding. He did, however, vow to seek additional funds from the government to assist with broadcast and rental fees in hopes of enticing some First Division clubs to promote.
“It is difficult for the HKFA to directly subsidize the clubs. They’ve got to think about what’s best for themselves,” the chairman pointed out, seemingly contradicting himself before expressing hope that Pegasus would continue. “Lo did a great job rebuilding South China back in the day. He truly cares about the local game and I hope that Pegasus will continue their participation.”
CEO Joe Tam stated that he would convene a meeting with the Premier League clubs as soon as possible.
Vacancies to be filled
Tam told the media that a new technical director has been identified and a contract has been offered with the chosen candidate.
As for the head coach of the men’s team, the CEO said that he expects the recruitment process to last three to four months. Because former head coach Mixu Paatelainen held both senior team and U23 team head coach duties, Tam confirmed that a local candidate would be hired to take charge of the U23 team’s matches in October.