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Leung Chun-ying

Kitchee Sports Club boss fears for future training base

Despite assurances from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday that the Shek Mun site would still be at the club’s disposal, Ken Ng Kin says he has concerns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2016, 10:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 11:20am

The head of Kitchee Sports Club fears the club will be unable to build another training centre if the government takes back the land its ­current facility in Sha Tin is on.

This is despite assurances from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday that the Shek Mun site would still be at the club’s disposal until another suitable place was found.

Anxious coaches, parents and young athletes have been left with uncertainty over the future of the centre’s training programmes, while plans for a sport science centre, may also be thrown into limbo.

Fears realised as Kitchee soccer training centre in Sha Tin makes way for housing development

Speaking on a radio programme yesterday, Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said he feared the club would not be able to find the millions in investment needed to build a new training centre, adding that the potential costs would be much higher than two years ago.

Ng said there had been no hint in 2011 that the leasing agreement was short-term, with some “senior officials” at the Home Affairs Bureau suggesting the club should be able to renew the lease on a yearly basis as long as the facility was well managed.

“This message was very clear. Otherwise, we would not have invested the resources, and the Jockey Club would not have donated that much money in the project,” Ng said, adding that he had not received any official response or any arrangement about future land allocation.

The training centre, which opened last year, cost HK$84 million to build, the bulk of which came from the Jockey Club’s Charities Trust. The aim was to build a facility to train and develop young football players.

The centre provides training facilities to Kitchee SC, schools and about 500 children. The Hong Kong team is known to use the centre.

It was at this facility that nine-year-old Brian Au Lok-yin honed his skills as a defender. He was ­recently recruited to the elite ­Kitchee Academy, which prepares young players for the city’s big leagues.

HK$84 million up in smoke? Kitchee fear losing modern training centre to housing project

“I really like this place,” said Au, who comes from a family of footballers. “It’s not far from my school, I take the minibus over.”

Au’s grandmother, Candy Pang, who takes him to training three times a week, said it was ­“ridiculous” the government could make such an abrupt decision. “I hope they won’t have to move. I want [Au] to continue playing and improving here.”

Ng said even if a new site was found, it would have to attract new investors, grow new partnerships and build new supporting facilities.

Kitchee CEO Alex Chu Chi-kwong said the announcement put many of the academy’s long-term plans at risk. “It’s hard to nurture talent these days,” he said. “The results of our work isn’t something that will be seen in a year. We’re talking about 10 years from now.”

Leung reiterated yesterday that the public housing situated at Kitchee’s training centre will be built in phases, and that the first phase will not affect the facility. He went on to cite the Kai Tak sports park as an example of how the government was committed to the development of sport.

Tackling the city’s housing shortage has been key components of Leung’s policy agenda. A tenth of a targeted 280,000 public sector flats to be built to 2025-26 will not be met.

Polytechnic University political scientist Dr Chung Kim-wah, said Leung’s controversial move would not likely affect Leung’s chances at re-election – which he is widely perceived to be seeking – as the local sports industry was well-known known for its pro -establishment leanings.