R&F will undergo significant changes in next season’s Hong Kong Premier League.
In the coming season, R&F are allowed to register three foreign players in their squad and can field up to two of them at any time during the match, while Mainland Chinese players will not be counted as foreign players. Currently, three-time league top scorer Giovane da Silva has joined R&F and former Guangzhou R&F striker Bruninho will also be part of the team next season. R&F also stated that they are looking to sign a former South China midfield/forward, which is reported to be Marko Perovic.
As mentioned, all Mainland Chinese players will be considered as local players in the coming season, but they are also required to register 8 to 9 young Hong Kong players. Former Rangers midfielder Chow Cheuk-fung has joined, while naturalized Eastern defender Roberto Affonso Jr. reportedly accepted a 2-year contract, with a monthly salary of $150,000, but still pending transfer fee negotiations between Eastern and R&F. Experienced CSL centre-back Zhao Ming will also play for R&F next season, as well as Mirko Teodorovic, who holds a permanent Hong Kong ID and therefore also counts as local player. Meanwhile, last season’s team top-scorer Chuck Yiu-kwok has left the club to join Rangers.
R&F are said to have allocated a budget of HK$ 20 million for the Hong Kong club next season. That would be equal to the budget of teams such as Eastern and South China in the past.
Li Zhi-hai, last season’s head coach of R&F, will not be leading the team into next season. Instead it is said that former Shenzhen player Marek Zajac from Poland will take over.
Private football development company Freemen FC of Hong Kong will be managing the youth and reserve teams for R&F next season, with former Hong Kong National Team player So Loi-keung as the manager. The reserve team will be based in Hong Kong and will travel to Guangzhou for training and exchange once a month. Four Freemen FC youth players have signed professional contracts with R&F and will play in reserve team next season.
R&F will use Yanzigang Stadium in Guangzhou, a 3-hour driving distance from Hong Kong, as their home ground in the Hong Kong Premier League next season. The club is required to provide accommodation and meals as well as to cover travel and insurance cost for the away team. The stadium will be renovated in the coming future with 700 seats provided for away fans, and tickets will be available for 60 and 20 RMB.
Home games of R&F will be broadcast live via Guangzhou Jingsai, while they are also looking to purchase the right to broadcast their away games in Hong Kong from the official broadcaster on.cc.
The new arrangements for R&F have received mixed reactions from the public. Some believe R&F shouldn’t have the right to enjoy the privilege of fielding foreign players, and there are worries on whether Hong Kong authorities will have any jurisdiction in Guangzhou in case there are undesirable events such as match-fixing and corruption. Also, Kim Pan-gon, heach coach of the Hong Kong National Team questioned the decision, stating that it will not not help football development in Hong Kong. However, Ricardo Rambo, former coach of Rangers and South China, disagrees: “R&F surprised a lot of people with their big budget this year. I see this as a benefit for players, coaches and fans and hope to see some good and competitive football next season.”