Ex-Scottish rugby chief tipped to head HKFA
Gordon McKie, the controversial former head of the Scottish Rugby Union, is tipped to become the first chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Football Association.
McKie, who on Tuesday vacated his offices at Murrayfield, is in final negotiations to spearhead the government's Project Phoenix - a comprehensive plan to revive Hong Kong soccer from grassroots and clubs to the national level.
'The Hong Kong Football Association CEO role is being considered by Gordon McKie,' a source close to the recruiting process said. 'But as far as the other big position is concerned - the national coach - the HKFA are back to square one and still looking for a suitable person.'
McKie had been SRU chief executive for six years, but has been under fire after a number of decisions angered clubs and the public. This came to a head last week when he had to survive a vote of no-confidence from the SRU board. But on Tuesday, the SRU said McKie was exiting the governing body 'with immediate effect'. It did not indicate whether McKie resigned or had been forced to quit.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak was unavailable for comment last night but a HKFA insider confirmed 'negotiations [with McKie] are protracted.'
Other sources revealed McKie was not the first choice after Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation in the UK - the largest sports charity funded by the Premier League which directs ?0 million (HK$372 million) into grass-roots sport - turned down an offer.
It is the second time the HKFA has been knocked back by its first-choice candidate. Last month, veteran English coach Brian Eastwick was headhunted but rejected the offer to become the Hong Kong national coach.
Eastwick, who was England's Under-20 team manager in this summer's World Cup in Colombia, had spent six days in Hong Kong after being recommended by a headhunting company.
It is now understood Englishman Bobby Houghton, who managed the India national team from 2006 until this year, has thrown his name into the hat. Houghton, 64, was also manager of China from 1997-1999 and engineered the mainland's bronze medal success at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.
'Originally they [headhunters] were asked to focus on [managers from] the UK, but there was a pointed comment from one of the board saying he wanted a South Korean coach, and was asking why they hadn't been shown any,' said the source.
While the HKFA is still some way off in identifying the man to take charge of the national squad, as far as the administrative side is concerned closure is in sight with McKie, an accountant by profession.
He was quoted by the BBC as saying: 'I will look back on my time at Murrayfield with a real sense of pride as much has been achieved since the dark days of 2005.
'I very much appreciated the board's recent unanimous vote of confidence in the executive management team However, from a personal perspective, I instigated discussions last weekend after considering matters with my family, as the time is right for me to leave Scottish Rugby and move on to fresh challenges.'
The Hong Kong national team's latest world ranking, lower than the likes of Fiji, Nepal and Bermuda Fifa.com