An unnamed Pegasus player alleges that the club are 3.5 months behind in salary payments. In response, management have downplayed the severity of the situation and insist that they expect to play next season.
A report on Monday by inmediahk has shed light on the financial situation of Premier League club Pegasus. Speaking anonymously, an unnamed player told the publication that the club paid its players only half of their salaries for March and have yet to pay any salaries between April and June. In total, it is believed that the club owe $4 million in back pay.
In late February, Pegasus were one of two teams who were temporarily barred from play due to overdue insurance premiums. The Horsemen swiftly found the money to pay their premiums less than a day after the Disciplinary Committee’s judgment, but that did not prevent news of the team’s dire financial straits from leaking. It was reported through multiple sources that in December and January, players did not receive their salaries on time and were later forced to accept pay cuts of 30 per cent.
“The players were never consulted or asked for their opinions,” alleged the disgruntled player, who stated that late payments continued after the season resumed in February. “They paid us December’s salary in February and January’s salary in March. We received February’s salaries in April but that was split into two parts: the first half came at the start of the month and the second half came at the end of the month.”
Foreign players refused to train
Pegasus boss Steven Lo stated in July 2020 that the upcoming season could be his last if “…upper management at the HKFA has not changed, the matches aren’t more entertaining, and the standard of the game continues to fall.” He also promised that “Even if (Pegasus) don’t win a trophy next season, everything will have been done different than in the past.” To keep that promise, Lo invested a lot of money to recruit new Brazilian marquee players in Marquinhos, Nilson, Junior Goiano and Bernando, although the latter player left the club when the season was paused due to the fourth wave of the pandemic.
However, behind the scenes, the player claims that team morale had been low ever since the salaries became delayed. The player also confirmed reports that the foreign players refused to train on at least two occasions as a form of protest.
“They came to training and just sat there on the pitch,” the player stated. “That’s when the coaches were forced to go upstairs and speak with management. They were able to get management to pay us February’s salaries and half of March’s salaries.”
Despite the team’s third place position in the table in mid-March, management were aware of low morale within the squad. In a bid to turn the tide, Lo told the players before their 21 March match against Happy Valley that he would pay a bonus to whomever the coaching staff selected as the best three players in every match. The programme was continued until the end of the season and photos of the recipients of said bonuses were featured on the club’s Facebook page every week.
However, the player claims that he never once saw Lo enter the club’s dressing room, adding, “Maybe he knew that he would be outnumbered. But still, I never imagined that a boss who has been involved in local football for so long would fall behind on salaries.”
The club continued to delay the dispersal of actual salaries after mid-March, suggesting that the bonuses were a public relations move designed to paper over a much larger issue.
Management downplays problem
The player believes that root cause of the arrears is due to the pandemic’s effect on Lo’s restaurant business. “Management told us that turnover was not good because of the social gathering limits and the prohibition on dining-in at night.”
Lo’s point man in dealing with the players was team organizer Thomas Ng. According to the player, “Every time we’d ask, (Ng) would tell us that the club would pay us in a week’s time, but he broke his promise to the players many times. He never apologized to us. He would only go as far as saying that the situation was regrettable.”
In his response to the allegations, Ng refused to give a definitive timeline for payment, saying only that he was “waiting for the club to respond” and that the players would be “paid in full”. He also denied that the arrears would have any affect on the club’s participation in next season’s Premier League.
When asked about the morale within the team, he sidestepped the question by claiming that he could not know the answer to the question because training camp had not begun.
After the inmediahk story broke, an unnamed club official dispatched a message to the players on Monday afternoon stating, “The boss told me to tell everyone that he is sorry. The arrears will not go on for much longer, but the money will be paid out in (two to three) instalments. No one will be paid a penny less than what they’re owed.
“Please continue to be patient. Once again, we apologize to everyone for the inconvenience.”
Pegasus director Peter Man told Headline Daily that Ng was not familiar with the situation at the club, seeming to throw Ng under a bus. He further added that the club were not in arrears, that the club were negotiating with sponsors for next season and to expect news by “mid to late July.”
Unnamed player frustrated with situation
Former Pegasus left back Chan Pak-hang announced his departure from the club on 16 June and is believed to have already contacted the Labour Department for assistance. Other players, though, wait in limbo, awaiting back pay but at the same time assessing their options.
The player who spoke with inmediahk expressed a level of frustration with the lack of communication from the club and admitted that he may switch professions.
“When it comes down to it, our lives have been severely impacted and we’ve had to live more frugally,” he confided. “Everyone has to pay off their credit cards and their rent. Can we adopt the same attitude as the club and tell the bank or the landlord to keep waiting for payment?
“Of course not!”
The player lamented at how the players are powerless in the situation and are intimidated to speak up. “Even in spite of the problems, we still found a way to get into the Championship Round. That’s pretty incredible, right?” he asked, rhetorically.
“It doesn’t matter whether we play well or not, management has no right to criticize our results. Imagine if you had to work at a job where you didn’t get paid for three months and you couldn’t make a fuss about it?”