Call to delay Hong Kong Stadium closure to host Liverpool visit
Local soccer chief Brian Leung seeks government review of renovation plan to pave way for trip by the Reds next summer
The Hong Kong Football Association will push the government to reconsider a renovation plan for Hong Kong Stadium to accommodate a proposed visit by Premier League giants Liverpool next summer.
The hottest team in Europe, Liverpool are four games away from winning their first league championship in 24 years. The club took command of a thrilling title race with a dramatic and emotionally charged 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said Liverpool, who have a strong fan base in Hong Kong, were keen to visit in their preseason in 2015, but the government planned to close the 40,000-seat venue next year after the annual Rugby Sevens in March.
"Liverpool have repeatedly expressed their interest in coming to Hong Kong and next summer will be the best time because there are no World Cup finals, no European Championship finals and no Olympic Games, so they can send their best team," said the soccer chief.
"But as far as we understand, the government is planning to replace the pitch's drainage system next year and it may take one year to finish the project before it reopens for the 2016 Rugby Sevens.
"We know it's important to improve the grass pitch conditions at the Hong Kong Stadium after what happened during the Asia Trophy last summer, but it is also important for us to bring top-class soccer to Hong Kong and it's very difficult to secure a time slot for a team like Liverpool."
It is believed the sponsor of Liverpool, Standard Chartered Bank, is keen to bring the Reds to Hong Kong due to the bank's strong presence in the community here.
Leung said the authorities could consider conducting the improvement work in phases or simply shorten the period, so they can accommodate the match in late July or early August in 2015.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the facility in So Kon Po, said it is planning full reconstruction of the Hong Kong Stadium turf pitch in 2015 and is working out the details of the project, including the works schedule.
"The timing of the major events to be held at the stadium and the optimal season for turf establishment will be taken into account," it said.
Liverpool last visited Hong Kong in 2007 as one of the three representatives from the Premier League in the Asia Trophy. They beat Hong Kong champions South China 3-1 in the first round, but lost to Portsmouth in the final after a penalty shoot-out following a goalless draw in 90 minutes.
Sunday's victory gave Liverpool a two-point lead over Chelsea and moved them seven clear of Manchester City, who have two games in hand.