HKFA U-turn on relegation to hit newcomers hardest
Newly promoted Yuen Long will have difficulty securing commercial sponsors after the Hong Kong Football Association decided to reintroduce promotion and relegation in the top flight for the coming season.
At a board meeting at Olympic House yesterday, it was decided one team would go down to the Second Division with one coming up at the completion of next season. Chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak and two other heavyweights - Ken Ng Kin of Kitchee and Steven Lo Kit-sing of South China - are supportive of the decision, despite the board's resolution in 2012 that there would be no relegation for next season to ease the transition to the proposed Premier League in 2014.
"We have already told a potential title sponsor that there will be no relegation for the next three seasons," said Yuen Long boss Wilson Wong Wai-shun, who stood against the decision at yesterday's meeting. "They may now reconsider their support because there is no guarantee of their investment in terms of continuity. This will have great impact on the small clubs, particularly the newly promoted teams because we have no track record in the top flight."
The district team, who won the Second Division, want to use Yuen Long Stadium as their home ground next season, but the two other newly promoted sides - Happy Valley and Eastern - will have the lowest priority for choosing their home ground.
"The teams will choose their home ground according to the position they finished in the league this season, followed by the newly promoted teams, while district teams will have the priority of picking their own district's facility," said HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe. "There will be 10 grounds available for the 12 teams next season, which means two of the facilities will need to be shared."
League runners-up Kitchee want to leave Tseung Kwan O for Mong Kok, while Sun Pegasus also intend to use the same venue as their Yuen Long base is to be occupied by the newly promoted team. Champions South China will retain their access to Hong Kong Stadium.