Kitchee try to save New Year event

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2010, 12:00am

The loss-making Lunar New Year tournament will be reduced to a single-day event, featuring one overseas team, next month.

For more than two decades, the two-day event held on the first and fourth day of the Lunar New Year, has been a major attraction celebrating the start of a new year, even if its quality has deteriorated since the pull-out of sponsor Carlsberg in 2006.

Yet only one team - South Korea's newly crowned Asian Champions League winners, Pohang Steelers - have been targeted to play Kitchee on February 17, the fourth day of the New Year, after the Hong Kong side agreed to underwrite the event for the Football Association.

'We have great difficulties securing top-class teams from overseas and the tournament has been losing money over the past couple of years,' Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said.

'The Hong Kong team will be attending the East Asian Championships in Tokyo during the Lunar New Year next month, giving us more difficulties running the tournament on a two-day basis.'

Kitchee president Ken Ng Kin said the deal to bring the Korean champions would need to be finalised soon as time was running short.

'It has to be completed in the next couple of days, or we won't have sufficient time for the preparation work,' he said.

'The Lunar New Year tournament has a great tradition and we don't want to see it stop.

'Everything looks positive at this stage, but as they haven't signed the papers, you never know,' he said.

To ease the burden, the Football Association has asked Kitchee for only a 5 per cent levy on gate receipts as the underwriter's fee.

The past three Lunar New Year Cups were run at a loss. In 2007, the tournament featured three under-23 teams from overseas and the Hong Kong League XI, while the following year Croatian side Hajduk, Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea, Penarol of Uruguay and the League XI played.

Only two overseas teams were invited last year -South Korea's Suwon Bluewings and Czech Republic champions Sparta Prague - to play against the League XI and a joint team from South China and Pegasus.