The proposed 24-hour Hong Kong soccer channel will go ahead, despite one of the 10 First Division clubs refusing to contribute to the production fee.
Hong Kong Football Association vice-chairman Steven Lo Kit-sing said yesterday a deal would be concluded with Now TV next week, with a target date to begin broadcasting at the end of the month.
'We'll try to persuade the only club that declined to change their decision before we sign a memorandum of understanding next week,' Lo said. 'But in the end, if they still refuse, we have to find a way to pay on their behalf as this is part of the deal.
'However, there will be no live coverage of that club's nine home matches in the new season. Also, they will not be able to share any of the advertising income from the channel. This is not punishment but we have to be fair to the nine others.'
Lo, who is also the convenor of South China, said he would contribute the money from his own pocket if the club, believed to be Sunray Cave Sun Hei, did not pay.
It is understood Sun Hei has doubts about using a pay-TV network to promote the game rather than TVB, a free-to-air channel which has been the broadcaster of local soccer for many seasons but has never asked the clubs or the association to foot the production bills.
According to the joint venture between the association and Now TV, each club will have to pitch in HK$40,000 per month for a year as part of the production costs.
The association will also need to foot a bill of HK$1.2 million a year. In return, they will get live coverage of all matches in the coming season, plus feature stories running on a 24-hour designated channel.
Lo's company BMA, meanwhile, will continue to sponsor the First Division in the coming season for the third year in a row. The fee will increase to HK$2 million, of which HK$1.2 million will be set aside for the soccer channel.
Despite the popularity of South China among the fans, Lo said there would be even coverage of all teams.
He is also confident the clubs would be able to share in some profits through advertising income to ease their burden.
'We have already contacted some big corporations and they have agreed to place advertisements on the new channel,' said Lo.
'Although the clubs will have to pay HK$40,000 a month, I am sure the figure will be much lower after they get the advertising income.'
Lai Yu-ching, vice-president of Now TV sports channel, said setting up the 24-hour channel would cost them more than HK$30 million a year and hoped the government would help financially.
The annual cost in Hong Kong dollars to Now TV of setting up the soccer channel, with the clubs paying HK$40,000 a month