New pro league put on the back burner: Leung

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 June, 2009, 12:00am

Re-elected Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak has put plans for a professional league on hold for at least 12 months.

'I think time is running out for implementing a brand new league in such a short period of time,' said Leung, who was re-elected unopposed and holds his post for two more years, at the association's annual general meeting last night.

'We need changes in order to improve football in Hong Kong, but it cannot be done overnight.'

Leung said he would introduce changes gradually in the new season. 'We will have the first board meeting in two weeks and hopefully we can set up a timetable for these changes,' he said.

The FA chief also called for more support from the government for football development.

'We know the government is conducting a consultancy study on Hong Kong football and a report will be submitted to Legco for discussion in October. We hope the government will set aside more resources for football, especially in supporting junior development and the Hong Kong team.'

But life would not be easy for Leung in his second term in office as a number of clubs had already indicated they would cut their budget in the new season in view of the uncertainties caused by the closure of the popular Mong Kok Stadium. Eastern, meanwhile, even announced their withdrawal from the top flight next season.

Eastern, who represented Hong Kong in the AFC Cup in the just completed season, informed the association yesterday they would not compete in the First Division in the new season, and have instead returned to the Third Division.

Eastern were relegated to the Third Division two seasons ago, but the then newly-elected chairman Leung and the FA board took them to the First Division through a special dispensation. 'It is disappointing news,' said Pui Kwan-kay, one of the re-elected directors. 'I feel sorry for Eastern but I know it will be very difficult to get sponsorship in the new season.'

Chairman of First Division side Happy Valley, Pui said they would also cut the team's budget next season and would not employ any expatriate.

Fourway director Philip Lee Fai-lap said they would also be on a tight budget in the new season. 'There are a lot of uncertainties because of the closure of Mong Kok Stadium which will affect attendances. Also there will be changes in the league and we don't how it will affect the teams.'