Leung denies 'power struggle' after exits

Hong Kong FA chief is unperturbed despite the resignations of two key directors who helped obtain government funding for Phoenix Project

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 1:54am

Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak dismissed talks of internal crisis after the recent exit of two directors, including former police commissioner Tang King-shing.

Tang, who was elected one of the three independent directors last summer, submitted his resignation a couple of weeks ago, citing other commitments. This follows the departure of another independent director, Simon Peh Yun-lu, the former director of immigration who joined the new government as the commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

"We are still trying to persuade Tang to change his mind," said Leung. "We regret his decision as Tang has contributed a lot to the development of the sport since he joined the board, especially in the areas of disciplinary and refereeing. But even if Tang insists, we are confident we can find a suitable replacement."

The two retired senior civil servants have been considered important figures in helping launch the government-initiated Phoenix Project launched last year. Under the project, the government is spending over HK$20 million annually for a period of five years to revive the sport. Their departures, coupled with the sudden exit of the association's first ever chief executive, Gordon McKie in May, sparked speculation of an internal power struggle that could be detrimental to the project.

Leung said everything was well under control and the project was making good progress. "It's not unusual someone leaves the organisation for one reason or another, but we have already completed the most difficult part by launching the project through the introduction of a set of organisational changes. The new chief executive [Mark Sutcliffe] will also be on board next week, along with other crucial appointments. The representative teams at different levels are well taken care of by the head coach, the technical director and their assistants. Everything is on course."

A source close to the board said the situation was not as harmonious as suggested. "We all know Tang is a committed soccer fan and there is no way he would quit just a year after completing the first of his four-year term unless he was very disappointed with the ways things were being handled by the board," the source said. "Some clubs are not too happy with the way Tang handled the refereeing and disciplinary matters as it conflicted with their own interest."

An emergency general meeting was called last week to elect Peh's replacement and the 50 member clubs were forced to choose between Eric Fok Kai-shan, son of HKFA president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, and Stephen Yau How-boa, backed by the major clubs. Yau, the chief executive of International Social Services Hong Kong Branch, won by just three votes. No voting was required when the first nine board members were elected last year under Project Phoenix.