The Mega Events Fund was yesterday accused of "losing the plot" after the government agency tasked with promoting major sporting events turned down a second application from the Hong Kong Sixes.
"I really fear this committee has lost the plot. In fact, they never had the plot," said Hong Kong Cricket Association chairman Mike Walsh, after the MEF knocked back a request for HK$5 million from the governing body to stage the tournament at the end of October at Kowloon Cricket Club.
The rejection has put the tournament under severe pressure as it is also without a title sponsor. "Our deadline for a decision is mid-August and without the MEF support it is very likely this event cannot go ahead," said HKCA president Rodney Miles.
The government's MEF, which is run by the Tourism Commission, has nearly HK$200 million in its kitty after the scheme was extended for a further five years last year. Since then only one sports event, the Dragon Boat Festival, has received support.
The HKCA had initially asked for HK$10 million but that was rejected last month. It went back with a fresh application after meeting with MEF chairman Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, who had apparently indicated a lower amount might be considered.
"It looks like they have not even reconsidered at all, but just regurgitated the initial reasons given," said Walsh.
The MEF has refused to comment on individual applications but an email from Emily Lo, secretary of the Hong Kong Tourism Commission's MEF assessment committee, to Miles on Monday stated that the Hong Kong Sixes application had failed to meet three of the five criteria required for financial support to be forthcoming.
"Unfortunately, the application did not attain the passing marks in three of the assessment criteria, namely economic benefits, scale of the event and financial viability," the MEF email stated. The two criteria which the Sixes had met were "public relations and other benefits" and "technical feasibility".
A disheartened Miles said: "This is absolutely pathetic."
Miles had last month outlined the benefits the Hong Kong Sixes would bring in a long and detailed email to Lam where he urged the MEF not to "lose sight of the overall objective of the fund, and the very, very strong positive value that the Hong Kong Sixes bring to Hong Kong's world image".
Miles stressed that cricket was the second most popular team sport in the world after football in terms of global television audience and that India, being the largest numerical supporter of cricket worldwide, is a major attraction for both business and tourism for the city.
"Although actual attendance is not enormous, the TV exposure is very strong in cricket nations, particularly India, and this strongly keeps Hong Kong's identity as an international city, and place to visit, " said Miles, who also stressed the Sixes had played and was continuing to play a major part in introducing cricket to China.
"Hong Kong and many in the cricket world are strongly driving for cricket to be included in the Olympics and again the Hong Kong Sixes is part of this exposure," Miles said. "In the same way Hong Kong developed rugby sevens, now part of the Olympics, we are the major tournament for cricket sixes in the world and hopefully can assist in promoting cricket into the Olympics, with China and cricket in China a major beneficiary from this."
Miles warned failure to support the tournament could see it run the risk of not being staged this year which could place it in danger of the idea being snapped up by Singapore.
"We are waiting for the new Hong Kong Stadium to ultimately move this event to, if we lose this event from Hong Kong now, then Singapore and their new stadium will quickly take over the event," Miles said.