District clubs will not be able to survive in the First Division if the government continues to neglect the financial pressure they face, Southern chairman Chan Man-chun has warned.
Debutants Southern, who are almost certain to stay in the top flight next season after their 1-0 home win over Yokohama FC (HK) in the RedMR League yesterday, became the second district club to raise concerns after newly crowned Senior Shield champions Wofoo Tai Po threatened to quit next season for the same reason.
"The government must take the matter seriously," Chan said. "If they want to see district teams compete at the top level, they must take proactive approaches to help us, or sooner or later, we'll all have to go back to lower divisions because of financial difficulties and play amateur soccer.
"You are talking about at least HK$5 [million] to HK$6 million a season to run a team in the First Division and we have to raise most of the money.
"But we are not playing for our own reputation but the name of the district, which provides great solidarity for people who live in the district and opportunities for our youngsters."
Southern, like Tuen Mun and Tai Po, were set up by the government and the HKFA in 2002 when they started the Third Division "District" League featuring 18 clubs. Subsidies of HK$150,000 to HK$350,000 are given by district councils for teams in the junior divisions and HK$550,000 for playing in the First Division.
"Now the government seems to have little responsibility for district teams and all the financial burdens have come down to us, who are just a group of soccer fanatics in the district. I don't know how long we can survive." Chan said Southern had a shortfall of HK$2 million in this year's HK$5.5 million budget.
Jonathan Carril scored the only goal with a header in the sixth minute for Southern yesterday, who now have 14 points and should be able to stay up - if they can afford to.
Elsewhere yesterday, leaders South China needed a stoppage-time goal from Martins de Souza to hold relegation-threatened Sun Pegasus to a 1-1 draw. Jaimes McKee put Pegasus ahead with a first-half penalty.