Sutcliffe throws hat in ring for top HKFA position
The man responsible for the blueprint to pull Hong Kong soccer out of the doldrums - Project Phoenix - is the frontrunner to take over as the new chief executive of the Hong Kong Football Association.
Mark Sutcliffe, who had been involved with the rehabilitative process from the beginning, confirmed he was interested in the position left vacant by Gordon McKie, who resigned a fortnight ago, less than six months after being appointed as the first chief executive.
'I have been contacted via a third party to see if I would be interested in a position at the Hong Kong Football Association. I have confirmed my interest, subject to discussions with the HKFA,' Englishman Sutcliffe told the South China Morning Post from Scotland, where he is holidaying.
'To be absolutely clear, I have not been formally offered the position and as I understand it the HKFA is considering its position, too. I hope to be able to discuss matters with the HKFA in the next few weeks and some decisions will be taken by both parties after that.
'This is a fantastic opportunity but there is a lot for me to consider both personally and professionally.'
HKFA officials refused to comment if Sutcliffe was a frontrunner for the hot seat. But it is believed there is a growing consensus among its board of directors that he is the best person to head the HKFA, especially as he had been involved in the government-funded consultancy study to look into ways to revive the local game.
'I think he is the best available choice, probably the one we should have picked originally,' said an HKFA insider.
Sutcliffe had expressed an interest in the CEO's position when the HKFA launched a worldwide search through headhunters. Soon after the HKFA unanimously approved constitutional changes in April last year, Sutcliffe said he would love to stay involved 'as this is a dawn of Hong Kong soccer and as the HKFA has made a courageous decision to change'.
Previously, his company Strategic Leisure, a part of the global Scott Wilson Group, spent 10 months, beginning in 2009, carrying out the study funded by the government which led to Project Phoenix and the raft of 33 recommendations to revive the game.
Subsequently, in November 2010, Sutcliffe and Scott Wilson were named as the change agent that would start to implement the recommendations.
After being appointed as change agent leader, Sutcliffe said the biggest challenge 'was to galvanise the HKFA into a unified body that can embrace change and ensure it is implemented effectively and swiftly'.
Among the team of external advisers was former executive director of the English Football Association David Davies.
McKie, who was appointed as HKFA chief executive last November on a three-year contract, had a brief honeymoon period. The Scotsman, who was believed to be on a package earning more than HK$3 million a year, could not see eye to eye with a couple of powerful members of the board of directors.
After departing Hong Kong, McKie told the media in Scotland: 'The first division clubs dominate the board, so there was a conflict with the guys who run the clubs.
'I discovered that my recommendations were going to be blocked, so how can I improve it if they don't want to change it?'
The HKFA has refused to comment on the allegations.