Talks as Sales fears power row
HONGKONG'S national Olympic committee have called a meeting of local sports associations to discuss a controversial move to new premises early next year.
The Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (ASF & OC) and their president A. de O. Sales are against the associations moving to 11,280 square feet of office space at Sports House, which is part of the Jockey Club's redevelopment of the Hongkong Stadium at So Kon Po.
Sales fears that the ASF & OC, widely recognised as Hongkong's most powerful sports body, will fall under the jurisdiction of the Sports Development Board (SDB) if both bodies come under a single roof.
Lai Yue-wing, assistant secretary of the ASF & OC has sent letters to the numerous associations currently housed at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium (QES) asking them to attend the meeting to be held on Tuesday night.
Sports House will be the headquarters of the SDB, the Government's sports funding body, which will manage the facility.
Most of the associations are based at the QES and Lai said the meeting will provide them with a chance to express their views.
''We are not doing this out of desperation,'' said Lai. ''We want to get all the associations together and seek their views on the move.
''If they are in favour of moving, we won't do anything to stop them. But it is hoped that at the meeting we can find a better solution.'' The SDB issued a statement earlier in the week saying associations who wish to remain at the QES in Wan Chai may do so.
But economically, it would be better for them to move to Sports House, which will be free of rent, provide more space and modern office equipment.
The QES currently houses 24 associations in 2,765 sq ft of office space. The Sports House can accommodate 42-plus associations.
The ASF & OC themselves have been offered a 1,500 sq ft self-contained office to replace their 936 sq ft headquarters at QES.
Lai said the ASF & OC's main concern is the SDB's treatment of so-called ''non-residential'' associations, who have no full-time staff. These will be allocated share space in the Sports House on a need basis.
More than $3 million extra can be ploughed into local sport in rent money saved if associations move to Sports House as the Government have entrusted the SDB with its management at a nominal rent of $1 a year.
The current SDB offices in Causeway Bay cost $2.87 million a year, while the board also provides about $500,000 to the ASF & OC for QES maintenance fees.
The ASF & OC treasure their position of influence over sports associations and are averse to outside organisations undermining that power.
Sales has always fought for the autonomy of associations and sees the Sports House as a threat to their independence as they will be obliged to fall in line with SDB terms.
In his speech at the ASF & OC general meeting on Monday, Sales said: ''The Federation has weathered many an attempt to break it up over the years.
''Coercion may take the form of a subtle threat to withhold funding, tried in vain before. If done again, it could put Hongkong in a bad light.
''There is disquiet over the construction of public sports facilities ostensibly for the use of the local sports community, but in reality, without full prior consultation with the sports establishment here.
''Sports associations appear to be asked to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. The Federation will not stand idly by to see local sports disadvantaged in their own land.''