Payment system 'needs rethink'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 12:00am


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The Mega Events Fund needs to change its 50-50 payment rule, says top cricket official Dinesh Tandon, as his association is still waiting for the balance of their handout six months after its marquee event.

Tandon yesterday welcomed the government's decision to formally extend its assistance scheme for arts, cultural and sporting events for a further five years with a kitty of HK$150 million, but said the fund needed more refining.

'It is great news the Mega Events Fund will continue for another five years. But what we would like to see is a change in the way money is disbursed to recipients, where instead of doling out only half up front, the entire sum, or at least most of it, be given straight away,' said Tandon (pictured), chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association.

The HKCA received HK$3.5 million from the MEF last year for the Karp Group Hong Kong Sixes last October. It only received 50 per cent - HK$1.75 million - in advance, with the balance to be paid if the event was deemed a success after a final audit. The HKCA is still waiting for the balance.

'We are not a rich association and HK$1.75 million is a lot of money to us. We managed to scrape together money and put on a good show last October. But it has been a long wait for the remaining balance which I hope will be approved soon,' Tandon said. 'The money from the MEF helped us a great deal in increasing the profile of the Hong Kong Sixes. It was due to the MEF we were able to increase the number of teams last year from nine to 12, get the All-Stars back again and also make it a three-day event.

'We will apply once again and we want to apply for more. But the problem is the present rules on disbursement. If we apply for HK$6 million for instance, we need to front up with HK$3 million and that is difficult for a small body like ours,' said Tandon, who will step down as chairman at the end of this month.

Last year, the HKCA applied for HK$5 million from the MEF and was given HK$3.5 million.

The Hong Kong Sixes was among three sports to receive MEF grants in its initial three-year scheme - the Hong Kong Golf Open and the Hong Kong Tennis Classic were the other two, with the latter supported in 2010 and 2011. The fund, which was started in 2009 with HK$100 million, ended in March this year. Just under HK$51 million was disbursed to 16 events (mostly to arts and cultural events) aimed at raising the city's profile and attracting visitors.

To make the MEF more attractive, the government has relaxed the rules which catered only to non-profit organisations. Now profit-making bodies can also apply. Contrary to expectations, the balance of HK$49 million left over from the initial fund will not be carried over.

The Hong Kong Golf Open, which received HK$8 million last year, was declared the most successful event in the first three years of the funding in terms of helping generate overseas publicity for the city.

'We are very pleased to hear we were the most successful event,' said David Hui Chun-yue, president of the Hong Kong Golf Association. 'The Hong Kong Open has a lot of history and we are grateful for the MEF for its help. We will apply once again for this year's tournament in November. We are still working on the details and a budget.'

The Open is still looking for a title sponsor after Swiss bank UBS pulled out last year and front runners Omega going cool on a return.

Organisers of the Hong Kong Tennis Classic, which was put on ice this year after failing to find a sponsor, said they would again apply.