Caroliners get AFC Cup venue exemption

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am

South China have been granted a special dispensation by the Asian Football Confederation, allowing them to play one of their three group G matches in the 2010 AFC Cup at Siu Sai Wan.

Hong Kong's top team had feared they would be forced to play all their three home games at the smaller Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground - which seats 12,000. They learned that the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium wouldn't be available on March 23 because it was booked by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union as they prepared for the Sevens on March 26-28.

Under AFC rules, a club can nominate only one ground for their home fixtures so as to be fair to all visiting teams. This had raised fears amongst South China officials that they wouldn't be able to cash in on the expected revenue from full-houses at the Stadium.

But this week, the AFC granted South China permission to play the second of their home games, against Indonesia's Persiwa Wamena, at Siu Sai Wan and the other two games at the bigger So Kon Po venue.

A relieved South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-shing said he hoped fans would rally round South China.

'We are more confident and comfortable with the Hong Kong Stadium, both in terms of the quality of the facility and fans' satisfaction,' Lo said on the AFC website. 'We are very confident that South China supporters will come to watch our home matches and give us as much support as possible.

'We hope that we can achieve higher attendances in each home game in this year's AFC Cup campaign, including the lone match in Siu Sai Wan.'

A Caroliners' fan who wrote in said: 'We are confident that the attendance record will be broken - by ourselves. We want to see South China go all the way.'

At last year's AFC Cup, South China drew a record crowd of 37,459 for their second-round semi-final against Kuwait Sports Club. It was the biggest crowd seen in decades for a game featuring a local club.

South China lost to Kuwait last year and failed to qualify for the AFC Championship, which features the top clubs from leading nations like Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Lo said the best way for this sort of a problem to be avoided was for the Hong Kong government to provide more football facilities.