All six members of the Hong Kong Football Association disciplinary committee resigned last night citing "differences between the committee and the [Hong Kong Football Association] board of directors [that] could not be resolved".
The resignations were announced in a statement which said Fifa and regional leadership body the AFC had been notified of the "differences" and their resignations.
Headed by committee chairman Stephen Wong Kwok-ki, the members, most of whom have legal backgrounds but who hold no club interests, did not reveal what these differences were. Disciplinary committee members are appointed by the HKFA at the beginning of each season to deal with disciplinary matters - such as to determine the penalty after a player is sent off - and differences are common between the clubs and the committee on the suitable length of the penalty.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak was not available for comment last night, but it is believed the board was in support of the clubs and had, through a letter last month, criticised the committee, which led to the latter's discontent.
"The members come from a legal background and do not want to see their decisions being challenged but the clubs always insist they are the ones who know soccer the best," said a source at the HKFA.
Early this season, a number of First and Second Division clubs lodged appeals against a committee decision to hand out a two-game suspension to players who received two bookings in a match. In most previous cases, a player only got a one-match ban.
The HKFA appeal committee then overruled the decision of the disciplinary committee and the players were only given a one-match suspension.
Recently, South China defenders Jack Sealy and Man Pei-tak were both sent off for straight red cards in the Senior Shield semi-final against Citizen. Sealy was found guilty of serious foul play and Man to have denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity for Citizen.
In this case, the disciplinary committee handed out a one-game suspension to each player, whereas a straight red card usually earned at least a two-game ban.