HK$1.3m injury payout for player stuns club

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2008, 12:00am

A Hong Kong soccer player has been awarded HK$1.3 million for injuries sustained on the pitch in a landmark compensation case that the club fears could threaten the future of the sport in the city.

Serbian Dragutin Stevic-Rankovic tore his left knee ligament playing for Rangers in a first division league match against Kitchee in October 2006.

The player, who needed two operations, brought his case to the Labour Department for compensation. Last week, he was judged by the department's special assessment board to have lost his earning capacity permanently and was eligible for the amount of compensation. His club, Rangers, and an insurance company have to bear the total amount.

'They [the Labour Department] just don't understand the operations of football in Hong Kong and have made an unreasonable ruling,' Rangers' director Philip Lee Fai-lap said yesterday.

'A football player's earning capacity ends in his mid-30s at the maximum and after that he has to pick up another job to make his living.

'He cannot be a football player for his whole life and there is no way that he has lost his earning capacity permanently.

'Stevic-Rankovic was 28 when he played only his fourth match for us. His football career may not have lasted too long considering his age. We felt sorry about his getting an injury and that's why we kept paying him until last month when the ruling was made.'

Mr Lee said clubs were already running in debt and could not afford the risks of player compensation. He also said the case might set a bad precedent for football as many overseas players might come to Hong Kong in the final stages of their career and try to get injured to snare a big compensation payout.

'We have lodged an appeal to the Labour Department in the hope they will reconsider the compensation,' Mr Lee said.

It is believed to be the first time a footballer has brought an injury case to the Labour Department for compensation. Previous cases have been settled between the club and player.

Cheung Yuk-san, who played for now defunct First Division club Instant-Dict in the mid-1990s, received revenue from a charity match staged by his club after he was paralysed from an injury in a club competition.

'Hong Kong football is professional in name only as all clubs are running in the red,' Mr Lee said.