Tsang lends support to long-delayed HK academy plan
The minister who oversees sports development says the government will press ahead with a plan for a soccer academy.
This follows Hong Kong's stunning gold medal success at the East Asian Games. But Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing believes that including soccer as one of the elite sports, which enjoy higher priority for funding, may not be the best option to promote the game.
An academy on a landfill site in Tseung Kwan O was first mooted in 2003. It will cater for schools, recreational players, nurture young talent and be a training base for professional teams.
The Jockey Club approved funding in 2005 but the project has been on hold since then, mainly due to indecision about who would run it and how it would sustain itself financially.
There has also been a funding row. The Jockey Club agreed to foot the construction bill of HK$103 million. But last year the Football Association said the club had agreed to pour in an extra HK$97 million. Jockey Club officials deny this.
The proposal includes five standard pitches and a half-sized training ground. Other facilities include a technical support service centre, canteen, hostel and a shop.
'We fully recognise that football has a strong appeal among the community and is conducive to fostering social cohesion,' Tsang said. However, he did not elaborate on how the government would aid the academy.
The elite sports housed at the Sports Institute are: badminton, cycling, rowing, squash, swimming, table tennis, tenpin bowling, wushu, windsurfing, fencing and triathlon. Elite status guarantees cash for coaching, venue provision, competition and training expenses, sports science and sports medicine support, accommodation and training grants for athletes.
Tsang said a study commissioned by the government on developing soccer in the city, due to be released next month, disagreed with the popular notion that the local game had no future because fans preferred European matches.
The study looked at how nearby countries and cities developed soccer and assessed the relevance of their experience to Hong Kong. The government will then consider measures to help the Football Association develop the sport. It currently receives a subsidy of about HK$7 million a year.
Since Hong Kong beat Japan in a penalty shoot-out on December 12 to secure the gold at the East Asian Games, players and fans have been urging the government to include soccer among the elite sports.
But Tsang said: 'It would not be in line with the existing mechanism if we add football as one of the events. We should explore other ways to promote development of the sport.'