Tobacco firm's big-budget pledge
By JEREMY WALKER and NAZVI CAREEM
TOBACCO giants Philip Morris Asia announced their return to the Hong Kong football scene yesterday - and then made a multi-million dollar promise to bring world-class sport to the new Hong Kong Stadium.
Through their Marlboro brand, Philip Morris are backing the exhibition match between Hong Kong's South China and the world club champions from Brazil, Sao Paulo, at the new $850 million stadium on Tuesday, April 5.
And David Chan, the company's director for Hong Kong and Macau, said this was just the start of a high-profile involvement in the territory's international sports scene.
''As with other sporting events we sponsor, we are committed to bringing the world's best to Hong Kong,'' said Chan at a news conference at the South China Athletic Association headquarters yesterday.
''Sao Paulo are the best club team in the world and it is this level of sport we want to stage in Hong Kong.
''For football this is just the beginning. We do not have a specific budget but we are talking in millions of dollars.'' However, they may find the Hong Kong Stadium a difficult venue to promote soccer as the landlords, the Urban Council, are against any overt promotion of tobacco at the venue.
Urbco chairman Ronald Leung Ding-bong, who is also chairman of the Council on Smoking and Health, said: ''We don't encourage the promotion of tobacco.
''Tobacco companies are looking for devious ways of promoting their products,'' he added.
He said he will have to investigate the intentions of Marlboro and decide if their plans infringe on Urbco policy.
Sao Paulo are coached by Tele Santana, Brazil's national coach in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals tournaments, and have won the World Club Championship in Tokyo for the past two seasons.
Tickets for the match - priced at $130, $150 and $180 - go on sale today at all Urbtix outlets, as well as the South China Athletic Association in Caroline Hill Road and the Hong Kong FA at Homantin.
The FA last night announced that Esso would sponsor this season's Hong Kong FA Cup.
The one-year deal will be worth $180,000 in prize money with the champions receiving $100,000 and the runners-up $30,000.
The semi-finals and final of the FA Cup will be held at the Hong Kong Stadium in early May.
Meanwhile, Instant-Dict are organising a benefit match for injured defender Cheung Yuk-sang at Mongkok Stadium on April 6.
Cheung was injured during a friendly match against Voicelink in December and is undergoing physiotherapy in a rehabilitation centre, although he is likely to lose 90 per cent of the use of his left arm.
The match will be between an overseas players' XI and a Hong Kong Chinese XI, made up of players from the First Division.