The Greens’ future in the Premier League remains uncertain with some reports suggesting that the club will withdraw from the 2019-20 season and self-relegate.
Uncertainty over the status of reigning Premier League champions Tai Po returned over the weekend after fresh reports emerged that the club remain in arrears over salaries. The reports, which were not denied by the club, also suggested that the district club will backtrack on their commitment to carry on with the 2019-20 season and withdraw instead.
In mid-April, Tai Po confirmed that HONGDA, their main sponsor, had failed to pay their sponsorship fees on time, resulting in late payment of salaries to players and coaches. The problem appeared to have been resolved on 27 April when the club’s honorary chairman Gary Choy agreed to personally loan the club a seven digit sum of money. At the time, general secretary Chan Ping had told the media that HONGDA intended to support the club through the rest of the season.
However, the loan – believed to be worth $2 million – was insufficient to cover all back pay owed by the district club. To date, only those players who have terminated their contracts early have received all back pay that was owed to them. Any remaining players were paid 60 per cent of their salaries for March while salaries for April through June remain unaccounted for. The club have not explained to the players when they should expect those salaries to be paid, nor whether they would be asked to take pay cuts.
In response to inquiries, Chan admitted that the club could not pay the players in full due to HONGDA’s outstanding sponsorship fees. Additionally, he conceded, “Our future prospects are uncertain. In the next few days, we may announce to the public what our direction will be.”
One news report suggested on Monday that the Greens will wait until July for sponsorship dollars to be paid in full and determine their future at that point. However, this may put the club’s participation in the AFC Cup in jeopardy. Another report suggested that the club will not only withdraw from the current season, but that it would also self-relegate as well.
Several of the highest earners on Tai Po’s payroll are believed to have left the club, including head coach and director of football, Fung Hoi-man. When reached, Fung did not deny the news, simply stating that “everything will be revealed soon.”
Should Tai Po choose to withdraw, their results would be expunged from the league table along with Yuen Long, Pegasus and Rangers. As a result, the table would look as follows: