With 24-hour TV, betting on local games 'possible'
Hong Kong's first 24-hour soccer channel could create momentum for betting on local matches, Hong Kong Football Association vice-chairman Steven Lo Kit-sing said yesterday.
At the formal announcement of the channel, which will start running on Now Sports 4 on September 27, Lo said soccer betting would become possible as the First Division's profile was raised and it won over fans.
'The 24-hour channel is a major step in further promoting the game,' said Lo, who is also convenor of leading club South China.
'We hope more fans and commercial sponsors will be attracted through this new platform so the sport can grow steadily. If we keep the momentum going, we may be able to introduce betting on Hong Kong games, say in five years.
'We will be discussing this [soccer betting] at the association's meeting in order to set a timetable after discussions with other parties such as the Jockey Club and the government. We may first use some international matches in Hong Kong as trials for betting, then some major local cup competitions and then the entire league competition.'
Fans, meanwhile, will have to pay HK$178 a month if they want to watch the new channel through subscription to Now TV's Mega Sports Pack. The channel will feature one live match a week and all the others - 120 across the league and cup competitions - will be replays.
There will also be coverage on team news, player interviews and match previews. Selected matches will also be broadcast on the Now Hong Kong channel, which is free to all Now TV subscribers.
'We will be producing a daily programme of over three hours, with more details to be disclosed soon,' Now Sports channel's vice-president Lai Yu-ching said. 'The cost of setting up the channel will be over HK$30 million and we hope we can break even in the end with contributions from the association, advertising income and subscription fees.
'But our concern is not only money, as we want to help promote soccer through this new channel. It will be a dream for many local fans.'
Lai, however, would not disclose how many people watched the first live match on Now Sports 4, between Kitchee and Sun Hei, last weekend.
The channel will also have live coverage of South China's match against Tuen Mun at Hong Kong Stadium this Saturday.
The football association and 10 First Division clubs will have to pitch in HK$6 million a year to help set up the channel, with each club contributing HK$40,000 a month along with HK$1.2m from the association.
It is believed Sun Hei remain the only club who have not, at least just yet, agreed to the fee. They have been given two weeks to change their mind, and if they refuse, then Sun Hei's home match against Sham Shui Po at Mong Kok Stadium on October 16 will not be considered for live broadcast, along with their eight other home matches this season.
The Sham Shui Po match will be the first at the stadium, which has been closed for two years to undergo a HK$274 million facelift.
Meanwhile, the Russia under-19 side will play a friendly at the official opening of the Mong Kok ground, slated for mid-November.
Number of fans at the match between Kitchee and Sun Hei on Sunday, broadcast live. Kitchee boss Ken Ng said the figure was encouraging