Hong Kong soccer chief calls for betting on local top-tier matches

Hong Kong soccer chief Brian Leung sees betting revenue as way to offset match costs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:34pm

Hong Kong's soccer boss appealed yesterday for betting rules to be relaxed in order to bring more top-quality matches to Hong Kong.

Although betting on local competitions is banned, Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak suggested the Jockey Club be allowed to accept bets on overseas teams playing against each other in the city, with betting revenues used to finance glamour matches such as Bayern Munich versus Barcelona.

A rare occurrence of overseas teams clashing in Hong Kong came on the opening night of the Barclays Asia Trophy on Wednesday when Premier League teams Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland met in the first match. Manchester City then played domestic champions South China in the second game.

"The Asia Trophy is organised by the Premier League and we have little worry on the financial side, but if we want to bring top teams on our own we have to bear a big financial risk," said Leung.

"A top team like Bayern Munich or Barcelona will cost you over HK$30 million and it would be very difficult to meet both ends unless we charge very high ticket prices, but the fans may find it difficult to afford and turn their backs on us."

Leung said this could be made possible if the Jockey Club was allowed to run betting on matches that involve overseas teams playing in Hong Kong.

"There will definitely be huge interest in betting on these matches and I have spoken to the Jockey Club. Their initial response is quite positive as they can give us a very high percentage of the profit to help lower the cost of staging these matches. But since their existing operations do not allow betting on local competitions, it may require a change of the betting rules."

Leung said he understood the friendly match between Manchester United and local side Kitchee on Monday had already prompted 350 overseas operators to open betting, with illegal operators likely to rake in even more money.

"A lot of people and many others from the southern China region will certainly be interested and bet on this match, but all the profit goes to these overseas betting companies," he said. "If the Jockey Club is allowed to run the business, all this revenue can be channelled back to Hong Kong and it can also help lower the cost of staging the match.

"In fact, if the profit is big enough we may also use it to support domestic soccer development and hence government subvention can also be lowered."

Kitchee needed the support of the government to stage the Manchester United game, receiving HK$8 million from the Mega Event Fund.

A source close to the Jockey Club said it would need to obtain approval from the government if the club wanted to give a percentage of its soccer betting profit to the Football Association. The club accepts bets from locals on overseas matches only.

Nearly 36,000 fans braved torrential rain on Wednesday, with organisers hoping the weather clears for tomorrow night as the 40,000-seat venue is sold out.