The Hong Kong Football Association hopes to secure HK$20 million in sponsorship from "global corporations" as part of its plans for a proposed new Premier League.
Steven Lo Kit-sing, the HKFA vice-chairman, said on Wednesday discussions were ongoing with more than one firm. "These are not small companies but global corporations that have a strong financial background," said Lo, who is also chairman of the marketing and communications committee of the association.
"The new money could be used as prize money for the league and cup competitions, and if everything works out we may also be able to give subsidies to clubs to strengthen their management, sports science support as well as youth and senior squad training.
"We hope everything will be finalised in May so that the clubs can have ample time to prepare themselves for the new season. If they know both the league and cup competitions will offer lucrative prize money, they will have an incentive to invest more in their own teams."
Lo cited horse racing in Hong Kong, saying owners were willing to spend money on quality horses because they know there are good potential returns on their investment. "There needs to be a drastic change in the prize money structure or it will be very difficult to get teams to invest in professional soccer," he said.
One of Lo's companies, RedMR, is the current title sponsor of the First Division. Details of that deal have not been disclosed, but the prize for winning the championship is just HK$300,000, a drop in the ocean compared to top teams' budgets of more than HK$10 million a season.
Mark Sutcliffe, the HKFA's chief executive, admits greater sponsorship is vital with most clubs finding it difficult to generate sufficient revenue.
"The association is acutely aware of the need to generate more resources for the teams and this will be particularly important in the future as we move towards a new Premier League," he said.
"We are in the process of formulating a proposal to take to potential partners to explain the new league, to show where it could be in five years' time and to request the amount of money required to establish the league as a viable proposition. This will all be happening imminently."
According to the HKFA's strategic plan, next season will be a transition year before the new Premier League gets under way in the autumn of 2014. There will be 12 teams rather than 10 next season, with only one team facing relegation at the end of this season and three coming up from the Second Division.
At the recent First Division clubs' meeting, it was also agreed that the foreign player quota would be increased from four to five next season because of fears there will be insufficient quality local players for the expanded top flight.