HKFA sets deadline for clubs to join new Premier League

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 10:02pm

First Division clubs have been given until the end of December to decide if they want to join the new Hong Kong Premier League, scheduled to kick off in September next year.

The top 11 First Division teams at the end of the 2013-14 season, along with the Second Division champions, will be given the priority to join the Premier League provided they can successfully apply for a licence, which is divided into two tiers - the Asian Football Confederation Champions League regulations and the Hong Kong Premier League club licence regulations.

The criteria for attaining an AFC licence are strict and the unique nature of Hong Kong soccer means for many clubs it will be very difficult to achieve that goal in the first year. The second-tier licence would be easier to attain, the Hong Kong Football Association said. There will be a maximum of 12 teams in the Premier League's first season and a minimum of eight as the league will be "based on quality not quantity".

Mark Sutcliffe, HKFA chief executive, said it would be an exciting time in the history of Hong Kong soccer. "We intend to take the quality of football to the next level as for many years soccer in Hong Kong has gone backwards in terms of quality on and off the pitch," he said. "Our Asian counterparts have passed us by and it's now time to catch up. The transformation of the game and the development of the new Premier League will take a few years, but the rewards will be great for those involved."

There will be no "entrance fee" for the Premier League despite earlier reports that each club would be required to have a minimum annual budget of HK$4 million.

Philip Lee Fai-lap, director of BC Rangers, however, had great reservations over the new league.

"The [government-funded] Project Phoenix has been in force for almost two years and the clubs have not benefited one bit from it," he said.

"Also, the clubs are still suffering from a lack of quality pitches and the growing expenses of HFKA charges on match day."

Lee said the HKFA should also make clear the fate of clubs who decide not to join the Premier League.