Alarm at closure of Hong Kong Stadium for pitch project
HKFA concerned that replacement of turf could take up to 12 months
The Hong Kong Football Association is hoping to convince the government to consider alternatives to closing down Hong Kong Stadium for up to a year in order to reconstruct the pitch.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs the So Kon Po facility, plans to replace the trouble-plagued turf once and for all, with construction work pencilled in for March 2015 after the Sevens and the HK$100 million project taking 10 to 12 months to complete.
Soccer officials are concerned at the length of the project and the planned schedule - with no World Cup or European Championship, the summer of 2015 is a perfect time to attract big-name overseas teams for lucrative friendlies. Liverpool have already expressed interest.
"We can't see any pressing need to close down the stadium for pitch reconstruction as the new Kai Tak Stadium project is due to open in 2019," said Ken Ng Kin, a member of the HKFA board and president of First Division club Kitchee. "They can still continue their maintenance at Hong Kong Stadium to keep it open as it's just a few more years before a new stadium is available.
"Even if they decide to go ahead with the project, they could consider other options, which could reduce the construction time and affect the sport less."
HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said he would meet the department's "expert group" next week. "As far as I am concerned the only thing that has been agreed by the group is that it is not possible to repair the existing playing surface and that the whole pitch needs to be reconstructed," he said. "There is no final agreement on the new playing surface and all options need to be evaluated. Although 2015 has been mentioned as the timescale for the work, no final decision has been taken.
"I pointed out at a previous meeting that 2015 would not be a good year from soccer's perspective ... we have already had interest from top European teams to come to Hong Kong that year."
Ng said the HKFA had studied a new artificial pitch which was of a high quality and required only four to six weeks to construct.
"Singaporean side Tampines Rovers are using it for their home ground, where South China will play against them in an Asian Champions League qualifying play-off next week," said Ng.
"Our Kitchee training centre at Shek Mun is also planning to use this technology. I think this should be an option for the authorities to consider.