Worrying wait for sporting bodies

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am


There is an air of torpidity hovering over Hong Kong right now. Nothing seems to be moving in the city, and it's not surprising as everyone seems to be waiting for July 1, the day chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying takes over the tiller. So until then everything is on pause throughout a stagnant government with decision-makers afraid to do what they are paid to do - make decisions. Or it certainly seems that way. Everywhere we turn, we are fobbed off by excuses that 'we are not in a position to answer your questions'.

From what is happening with the financing of the Kai Tak sports hub (which as the days go by has acquired a mythical cloak) to how a new-look Mega Events Fund will operate, the stock response is 'we don't know as yet'. It seems those in a position to make decisions are biding their time.

This is the worst part of a democracy. Once a new leader has been chosen, the incumbent becomes a lame (un-Peking) duck. We have heard the current administration vehemently denying they are redundant. If so, they should prove it by making some decisions.

Frustrations are compounded when we look at what is happening in Singapore, our big rival. The place is buzzing. Formula One's planned flotation on the Singapore stock exchange is expected to raise up to US$3 billion in June. Why list on the Singapore bourse, and not in Hong Kong? Well, the Lion City has had a Formula One race since 2008 and it makes more sense to hold an initial public offering there.

Singapore also gave Manchester United permission to hold an IPO of about US$1 billion last year. Although that sale was scuttled amid all the volatility in the world's markets, there is a possibility it will be revived and will go ahead soon.

For some people, it looks as if Singapore is a better bet than Hong Kong. The Lion City certainly seems to have the edge when it comes to making decisions.

While we are still undecided on how to press ahead with our sports hub, Singapore is already halfway through a similar project which is scheduled to open in March 2014.

The only thing happening in Hong Kong is a witch-hunt as everyone from former government officials to billionaire property tycoons scurry for cover. But when the waiting game ends, there is a real worry facing the sporting community. It is expected the new administration will bring along with it sweeping changes.

We will most certainly see a game of musical chairs, but the biggest question is who will be at the helm of the Home Affairs Bureau when the music stops.

Tsang Tak-sing, the secretary for home affairs, has done a reasonable job as far as sport is concerned. His biggest plus point is he is not anti-sports and has benevolently carried the torch when asked to do so. Will he survive the winds of change? Or more importantly, will one of his deputy secretaries, Jonathan McKinley, who is responsible for all sporting matters, remain in place?

McKinley has been the talisman for sport within government circles. He has helped raise its profile. It has come easy to the Englishman who is an ardent sports fan and loves everything from football to cricket, even joining the Barmy Army in Galle, Sri Lanka, when England played a test match last month.

But there are whispers he will be moved elsewhere. As it is, McKinley has overstayed his term - having had two tours, so to speak - in his current job. So even if he isn't moved due to the new administration, it is likely his time is up with his sporting responsibilities as per normal schedule. What happens when he goes? What if the new man/woman isn't a Yau Yee League fan? Or he/she thinks cricket is a variety of insect?

We have had many instances in sports sponsorship when the man at the top moves on and that particular sport loses a sponsor. When Ian Wade retired as the head honcho at Watsons Water, the company gave up its sponsorship of the Hong Kong Tennis Classic. It has happened in golf, rugby and cricket, too.

Terry Smith, former president of the Hong Kong Cricket Association and longtime resident, perhaps summed up the sentiments of the sporting community when he said 'sports will have to suffer the consequences' if McKinley is moved.

This is why it seems Singapore's meritocratic system is best. They have handpicked people with specific knowledge of the job running the show. Not some civil servant who is moved from desk to desk just because his time is up, or because a new government is in place.

We asked McKinley what he thought about a possible move. He replied: 'I am not in a position to answer this question.'

Yes, that sense of torpidity seems to have got to him, too.