HKFA council to debate power-sharing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am

A broader membership of the Hong Kong Football Association is the most important recommendation that will be put on the table for clubs' endorsement next week as a massive change to strengthen the governance of the local soccer governing body - a prerequisite for increased funding from the government - moves into high gear.

Under a proposal made by the 'change agent' appointed last November, the association's council, the highest power base of the organisation, will be expanded from 50 members at present to a maximum of 100.

'The exact number is yet to be decided, but the council will be expanded to between 80 and 100,' a source close to the change agent said.

The change agent, led by Mark Sutcliffe, a senior executive of the firm Scott Wilson, will present its proposals to the clubs next Thursday.

'The new members will not be limited to soccer clubs, but any organisation that shares our mission of developing the sport in Hong Kong with their expertise in specific areas like sports marketing, refereeing and even sports journalists,' the source said.

'We need contribution from different sectors to help the sport. But, of course, they will need to fulfil certain criteria and go through an application process to become members.

'This is going to be a major change in relation to the association's constitution and it will require a 75 per cent majority of the existing members for ratification. That's why we need to brief the clubs first.'

The HKFA council is made up of 53 members who every two years select the office bearers to run the sport, including the president, chairman and board members.

Only three of them are accredited members, while the rest are clubs that play in the three divisions. The three accredited members are the Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Ladies Football Association and the Chinese Football Association of Hong Kong.

At the annual general meeting, each member has two votes that will decide who will be running the sport in the next two years. That vote is held at the AGM every two years. However, the election has long been criticised for lack of transparency and those voting having vested interests.

With the addition of members from different sectors, it is hoped that new ideas and expertise can be brought to the council, according to the source.

'The government has stated clearly the association must be restructured before any new public money is provided,' the source said. 'The clubs can reject the proposal but in the end they will be the ones to suffer if there is no additional financial support.'

In his recent budget speech, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the government last July injected HK$1.5 billion into the sports portion of the Art and Sport Development Fund. The return on investment, he said, would be 'used to support various sports, in particular team sports'.

With an expected investment return of 4 per cent, there will be HK$60 million available from the fund annually, with soccer likely to be the chief beneficiary.

Pui Kwan-kay, boss of First Division club Citizen, however, urged caution when it comes to introducing new members to the FA's council.

'We welcome the government's proposal to restructure the Football Association, but the aim must be to help the sport and not bringing in outsiders to seize control,' said Pui, whose team defeated South China in the Senior Shield final to claim a spot to represent Hong Kong in next year's AFC Cup.

'If some people want to invest in the sport and set up a team in the First Division, it is definitely good news and we should give them membership. But if these new faces just come in for the sake of power, why should we allow them in?'