Fingers are crossed at the Hong Kong Football Association that fans will flock to the second and final day's play in the Lunar New Year Cup today and reach the magic number 6,000. That is the number of tickets that need to be sold to reach break-even point for the organisers.
"We need to sell an aggregate of 10,000 tickets … to break even. Anything more is a profit, which would result in the HKFA getting 50 per cent of it," HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said.
Chinese Super League team Shanghai East Asia will take on K League outfit Busan IPark in the final of the China Mobile Satellite Communications Cup at Hong Kong Stadium at 5.30pm. This is preceded at 3.30pm by the third place play-off between the Hong Kong League XI and Thai champions Muangthong United. "We have got some good teams - I was especially impressed with the Chinese and Korean teams - and the quality of football on the opening day on Sunday was very good," Sutcliffe said. "I hope we get a bigger crowd for the finals, as the tournament deserves it," Only 5,419 fans turned up on the first day, of whom 4,217 bought tickets, resulting in revenue of HK$581,900.
Dating to the 1950s and one of the longest-running tournaments under the purview of the HKFA, the Lunar New Year Cup has been a major source of income for the sport's governing body. From 1998, it received an annual sanction fee of HK$3 million from sponsor Carlsberg, who invited leading national teams to the showpiece. But that relationship ended in 2007, when the brewer pulled out, signalling the onset of hard times.
In 2008, the HKFA staged the tournament on its own and ended up losing HK$4 million. The association gave up the tournament in 2010, handing it over to Kitchee. But this year, it has taken a lead role again, even though it has not shelled out any money in putting on the show.
"When Carlsberg was around, we used to get bigger and better teams, national sides, and were guaranteed a sanction fee," Sutcliffe said. "Now the idea is to keep this tournament going, and we are thankful that this year it is being underwritten by a group of people, with Kitchee leading the way. And [the HKFA has] a good deal. We don't spend any money, but if we make a profit, we get 50 per cent of it."
The consortium behind the tournament comprises four leading members of the HKFA who are underwriting it: chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak, vice-chairmen Steven Lo Kit-sing and Pui Kwan-kay, and board director Ken Ng Kin.
"The costs are relatively low. We were relatively happy with the crowd on the first day, but we hope more people will turn up for the final. Our fingers are crossed," Sutcliffe said.
Tickets are priced at HK$180 and HK$130, or HK$60 for students and senior citizens.
The Hong Kong League XI, made up mostly of the cream of the city's expatriate players, lost 3-1 to Busan IPark in the opening encounter and will be aiming to give their fans a reason to cheer today when they come up against Muangthong.
"This is my first Lunar New Year Cup, and it was one of the biggest crowds I have seen so far in Hong Kong," Sutcliffe said. "The atmosphere was very good with the fans cheering on the home side. Hopefully, more people will turn up."