HKFA stunned by red devils' US$3m demand

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong soccer chiefs have baulked at a hefty asking price of US$3 million for Manchester United to play in the city during a pre-season Asian tour next year.

'The price is simply unaffordable,' said Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak. 'They are seeking a net profit of US$3 million. On top of that, we would still have to pay for their airfares and first-class accommodation. It is too risky with a potential heavy loss.'

The holders of 19 English top-tier titles and twice European Champions League winners are planning a pre-season tour to Asia in the summer. It is understood that Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland feature prominently in the club's list of desirable destinations. A mainland sports agent confirmed that Manchester United had asked for US$6 million to play two matches there.

The Red Devils' asking price appears to far outstrip those of their Premiership rivals. Two years ago, Liverpool sought HK$15 million for an exhibition match and were accused of demanding an 'out-of-market price'. The trip never materialised. South China spent HK$6 million when they hosted Tottenham Hotspur in 2009.

Leung (pictured) said if the HKFA wanted to profit from the match, it would have to charge an average of HK$1,000 a ticket - even if it received financial support from the government's Mega Events Fund and commercial sponsorship.

'The maximum capacity of the Hong Kong Stadium is 40,000. Bear in mind the government will take away 20 per cent of the gate receipts as a hiring charge. It is unlikely the fans will come to watch for that ticket price. People can watch EPL [English Premier League] teams week in and week out in live television coverage.

'It may be easier to do it in China where you can find stadiums with a capacity of 70,000 or 80,000 like the Bird's Nest in Beijing. They are enjoying a booming economy with people willing to spend, but it will be very difficult to justify the cost in Hong Kong.'

The Mega Events Fund agreed to support the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club to the tune of HK$10 million to help stage an international regatta in Victoria Harbour last year, although the event was cancelled due to a lacklustre response from the international sailing community. More recently, the Hong Kong Golf Association received HK$8 million from the fund for its flagship tournament, the annual Hong Kong Open.

'Unless we can find a real big commercial sponsor, it's unlikely we can go ahead with the match,' Leung said.

'We would be happy if any individual club wants to take over the match. They would be most welcome. It is always our aim to bring top-class competition to Hong Kong but the price is too high this time.'

Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said none of the clubs could afford to stage the event.

When the Barclays Asia Trophy was held in Hong Kong this summer featuring Chelsea, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and domestic champions Kitchee, the highest ticket price was HK$460 for two matches a day. The HKFA did not pay any fee to get the teams as the tournament was underwritten by the EPL.

Manchester United have visited six times, the last time beating a Hong Kong team 2-0 in 2005.