Smith sees trophy as key to success
Winning this summer's ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur would have a strong influence on the long-term financial well-being of the sport in Hong Kong, says Terry Smith, president of the Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA).
'We must raise our game. It is important for our funding that we do well at the [Asian Cricket Council] Trophy. Our future depends on it,' said Smith at the HKCA's annual general meeting at Hong Kong Cricket Club last Saturday.
It is rare that the top man in local cricket makes a sweeping statement, but Smith came out strongly at the start of his keynote speech, and stressed the importance of winning the 18-nation regional tournament in Kuala Lumpur.
Smith's remark stems from the fact the primary source of income for the HKCA is the Asian Cricket Council and the International Cricket Council (ICC). Both bodies gave nearly $3 million last year.
So even if Smith smiled at Hong Kong captain Tim Smart while delivering this verbal bouncer, the message was clear: 'you and your teammates have to deliver'. Smith wants Hong Kong to get back to the days when they were ranked in the top eight among the ICC's associate members (from 1994 to 1998).
The local game has declined in recent years. Last season, Hong Kong finished bottom of the five-team ACC Premier League.
John Cribbin, HKCA secretary, said Hong Kong had everything to play for. 'If we want access to additional funding from the ICC and the ACC, then we have to make certain we qualify for the Third Division in the World League,' he said.
To qualify for the Third Division - and move closer to the 2011 World Cup - Hong Kong will need to either win the ACC Trophy; finish second if either the United Arab Emirates or Oman are in the final; or finish third if the finalists are the UAE and Oman. Hong Kong are grouped with Kuwait, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan in the preliminary round.
'We have been promised more money from the ICC for the next couple of years. But there will be substantially more if we progress further up the chain,' said Cribbin. 'Those teams among the top 12 associate members in the world have access to high-performance programme funding which means the costs of all coaching, training and tours are covered.'
Apart from the ICC and ACC funds, the HKCA's other major source of income is the Hong Kong International Sixes. Last year's event turned over $8 million. However, there was a break-even situation as expenses - flights, especially flying in the West Indies, accommodations costs and production costs for live television coverage - were also higher.
The premier Sunday League will be expanded from eight teams to 10 teams next season. The two news sides in the competition are Hong Kong Cricket Club's Wanderers, making a comeback, and debutants Sri Lankan Cricket Club.