Seven steps on the road to a bright new future for Hong Kong soccer
The vision of a new era for Hong Kong soccer has been spelled out by the consultancy report. But what will be the biggest challenge facing the 'change agent' as he goes about the task of delivering the new product and implementing the report's manifold recommendations? No one is better qualified to answer that question than Mark Sutcliffe, one of the two men involved in the government-initiated study, who says getting the Hong Kong Football Association to work as one is of prime importance and could make or break the entire exercise. 'There are many challenges. But I think one of the main ones is for the change agent to galvanise the HKFA into a unified body that can embrace change and ensure it is implemented effectively and swiftly,' said Sutcliffe, the chief executive of Strategic Leisure, which is a member of the Hong Kong-based Scott Wilson Group. Sutcliffe and colleague Paul Woodland carried out the study, which took 10 months to complete, and came up with a vision that they believe will improve Hong Kong's standings in the world, and ways on how to implement these recommendations. The recommendations are as follows:
The consultancy report recommendations are broadly divided into seven areas:
KHKFA - that it agrees to a transformation process and appoints an external 'change agent' to help implement the transformation. That the restructured HKFA decides on the constitution, governance and organisation that will best serve the sport and improve the level of professional expertise and experience in its secretariat. That it draws up a five-year business plan with clear targets and strategies and develops a strategy for raising funds.
The Professional Level - That the principle of establishing a professional league within three to five years be agreed and the criteria for clubs to enter be linked to Asian Football Confederation criteria. The new HKFA and new league should encourage clubs to move towards fully meeting the AFC criteria and focus on youth development by setting up academies. That the potential for the future participation of a team in the Chinese Super League be recognised, and this be further considered when developing the new professional league and planning the multi-purpose stadium complex at Kai Tak.
Development Programmes and Pathways - More funding to be made available to district and representative teams and at elite level for coaches and training facilities. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department ensures these facilities are available for representative team training and this be co-ordinated with the new football training centre. The HKFA recruit five regional development officers. The youth representative teams play international friendly matches or competitions on a regular basis. The clubs in the professional league operate academies for 9- to 16-year-olds and play competitive matches at all age groups in an academy league.
Facilities - The government allocate a 'home' ground to each First Division team and implements a five-year, third-generation artificial pitch development plan. The government invites the Jockey Club to develop and manage a new national football training centre.
National Teams - Play more international matches, including a minimum of eight friendly matches and six competitive matches. The appointment of a full-time national team manager and additional national representative team coaches to be conducted on terms that would attract the best talents.
Status of Football - For clubs to include educational programmes from age 16-19 years following the establishment of a professional league; and for universities and other educational and vocational institutions to provide football scholarships. Sport or football-related educational courses be offered to support players with lower academic aptitudes.
Links with Education - The principle of establishing links between schools and football clubs be accepted and promoted. School sports facilities should be systematically improved through a strategic investment plan, and district football officers should be be employed by the HK Football Association to work in schools and community-based football programmes to identify talent and improve the standard of coaching.