Steven Lo's departure 'won't affect South China'
Hong Kong giants remain committed to the cause and will continue to spend big despite convenor leaving after eight years at the helm
Powerhouses South China confirmed the departure of Steven Lo Kit-sing on Wednesday, but insisted they will remain one of Hong Kong's top teams.
South China Athletic Association, the club's parent body, said it was in discussion with potential candidates to replace Lo, their big-spending soccer convenor for the past eight years who was found guilty of corruption and money laundering by a Macau court in March.
"Lo will leave our soccer section at the end of the month. This is his own decision," said SCAA chairman Duffy Wong Chun-nam. "We want to put on record our thanks for his contribution over these years and also assure our fans South China will continue to support Hong Kong soccer, no matter who is in charge of the soccer section.
"No one should doubt our commitment to the sport in Hong Kong as there is a long tradition of soccer in South China. We hope to announce some good news very soon."
It is believed Wallace Cheung Kwong-yung, chairman of oil equipment and technology company AET (Asia), is a leading candidate. His company sponsored the Lunar New Year tournament this year and brought Paraguay to Hong Kong for a friendly in 2010.
A source close to Cheung's camp said yesterday they were in talks but nothing had been agreed. "Cheung is interested in promoting soccer in Hong Kong and South China are a well-established club with a long tradition. We are trying to work out something," the source said.
Lo's departure came as little surprise. He was given a jail term of five years and three months after being found guilty of paying a HK$20 million bribe to Macau's disgraced public works minister Ao Man-long in 2005 to secure land near the airport for a luxury residential project, La Scala.
He has been granted a leave of absence by the Hong Kong Football Association, of which he is one of two vice-chairmen. Lo had said earlier he would appeal against the verdict.
"We don't want to speculate [on the reasons for] his decision, but he has made a great contribution to the club," said Wong.
SCAA provides HK$5.5 million to support its soccer section each season. The convenor will have to boost that to have a team strong enough to challenge in the inaugural Premier League. Lo said the club had an average annual budget of HK$20 million under his reign.
Lo helped steer the team to four consecutive league championships from 2006 to 2010, and another in 2013. He also took South China to the AFC Cup semi-final in 2009 - which saw a full house at the 40,000-seater Hong Kong Stadium - and shelled out huge sums to bring former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman and Manchester United star midfielder Nicky Butt to the club in 2011.