Four First Division soccer games scheduled for this month involving Tuen Mun and Happy Valley have been postponed pending the outcome of a match-fixing investigation.
The Tuen Mun Sports Association also announced yesterday that it had deregistered 11 players because "they have financial difficulties that might preclude them fulfilling their obligations for the remainder of the current season".
The executive director of First Division side Eastern Salon, Peter Leung Shou-chi, said: "It's not unusual for a football club to deregister two or three players during the transfer window, but I cannot recall any deregistration of players on this scale for a First Division team."
A specially convened ad hoc six-member committee would investigate the allegations surrounding the clubs, the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) said yesterday. It will be chaired by the association's independent director, Stephen Yau. Its members include a retired assistant director of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Sam Hui Kwok-ting.
Both clubs would be asked at the hearing to convince the committee that they were operationally and financially able to continue in the league for the remainder of the season, the HKFA said. For Happy Valley, the association said it had "sufficient concerns about the governance, management and finances of the club to temporarily postpone" its matches.
"It is important to note that this committee is not duplicating the ICAC investigation into match-fixing," said the association's chief executive, Mark Sutcliffe, who also sits on the committee.
On Tuesday, the graft-buster arrested six Happy Valley players, the club's executive officer, a former player and a representative of its sponsor.
The now-deregistered Tuen Mun defender Li Ming, who headed a last-minute own goal to lose a match 2-1 to Yokohama FC on December 22, was issued a request to contact the HKFA within seven working days to attend the committee hearing, which the association aims to hold within the next seven to 10 days.
Li's contract with the club was scrapped soon after the match and he has returned to the mainland.
In addition to sending the request to Li at his known addresses, as well as the Tuen Mun Sports Association and the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the HKFA would also request the latter locate him.
If Li fails to contact the HKFA in time, a hearing will be conducted in his absence. Its result would be referred to the CFA, the Asian Football Confederation and Fifa, the world governing body, for further action, the HKFA said.
Happy Valley and Tuen Mun are currently last and second last in the 12-team league.