Snooker chiefs fear losing vital pot of money
Hong Kong snooker officials are appealing for fair treatment as they face the axe from the elite programme at the Sports Institute.
In April, billiard sports was given only a two-year guarantee of support at the elite training centre until March 2013 after the sport was dropped from the Asian Games programme for 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. The other 14 elite sports at the centre received a support cycle of four years.
'We are very concerned about the situation as we have heard nothing from the authorities regarding our future,' said Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council chairman Danny Mak Yiu-hoi.
'We were told there would be a review of the criteria for getting elite vote support, but so far nothing has happened despite our repeated requests made to the government and the Sports Institute.
'Perhaps they think there is still a long time to go, but we have to plan for our future. We want to know if we can still get a similar level of support after 2013.
'If not, we will be back at square one and will have to work on our own without the institute's support.'
The Sports Institute provides comprehensive support to help the elite programmes reach the highest standard. These include coaching, facilities, local and overseas training, sports science and sports medicine, fitness and conditioning, as well as financial, education and personal support to athletes.
An elite training grant offers athletes up to HK$32,000 per month, free room and board at the institute's Fo Tan training centre and an overseas training allowance.
Each sports programme can have an annual budget of HK$4 million to HK$8 million depending on the number of athletes. They can also hire a top class head coach and other assistant coaches.
'Since we were admitted to the institute in 2009, we have made a lot of progress in our development programme with the help of the head coach [Wayne Griffiths]. We also did well at the 2010 Asian Games, winning two gold medals and one bronze medal, but the head coach's contract is also due to expire in 2013 because of the funding cycle and pending our elite status,' said Mak.
According to institute's funding criteria, Asian Games status is a prerequisite and a sport also has to reach a complicated nine-point benchmark through international success at both junior and senior levels.
'We have no problem reaching the nine-point benchmark through our international achievements, but the Asian Games status is decided by the Olympic Council of Asia and involves a lot of politics behind the scenes,' said Mak.
'Nonetheless, we don't think it is a fair policy if only Asian Games sports can receive elite vote support. The government must have a long-term policy of helping individual sports at different major games.'
A Sports Institute official said they were waiting for the government's instruction for reviewing the funding criteria. 'We also want to know because our new sports complex will be open in 2013 and we have to decide whether we need to put up space for snooker in the new multi-purpose training hall,' he said.
The issue is likely to be discussed at the next meeting of the government's Elite Sports Committee.
Ng On-yee, who won a gold medal with the women's snooker team and an individual bronze in Guangzhou, said it would be a major blow if they had to leave the institute.
'We use a lot of facilities at the Sports Institute to help us reach the highest level and also train under the guidance of the head coach. This will all be gone if we are no longer a programme there,' she said.
The number of medals - 4 gold, 3 silver and three bronze - Hong Kong's snooker players have won at the Asian Games