Hong Kong Stadium closure rules out visits by Liverpool and Arsenal
Hong Kong Football Association not impressed by LCSD decision to renovate maligned pitch next summer
The Hong Kong Football Association has questioned the timing of renovations to Hong Kong Stadium next year which will deprive the city of visits by Premier League giants Liverpool and Arsenal.
HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said the 40,000-seat venue in So Kon Po would be closed from April for six months for repair to its turf .
“The biggest problem is we are aware of a number of big European teams that want to visit Hong Kong during this period, including Arsenal and Liverpool,” said Sutcliffe.
“It will be a key time for European clubs to visit Hong Kong because there is no World Cup or European Championship. We are concerned about a loss of 8momentum as we try to build up local interest in football and also a loss of much-needed revenue for the HKFA.
“We acknowledge the need to replace the pitch at the Hong Kong Stadium but the timing is far from ideal from a football perspective,” he said.
It is understood the HKFA had written to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the facility, saying Liverpool and Arsenal were planning to visit next summer, but it fell on deaf ears.
The authorities were fearful of further problems and embarrassment after the pitch came under heavy fire during last summer’s Barclays Asia Trophy and the international friendly between Kitchee and Manchester United, all played within a span of six days. Visiting teams’ officials described it as “a killing field” after the ground was hit by torrential rain.
Other than the international calendar, domestic league and cup matches will also be affected because the HKFA will not be able to use the venue from late February. The stadium will be closed from the beginning of March to prepare for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
“We will lose the home venue for South China for Premier League matches as well as for the FA Cup final, end-of-season play-off final, any AFC matches and any representative team matches,” said Sutcliffe.
“It will put significant pressure on Mong Kok Stadium, which will already be the home venue of two Premier League teams. The same will apply at the start of the 2015-16 season in September or later if the works overrun,” he added.
Because the HKFA had expected to generate income from these matches at Hong Kong Stadium, Sutcliffe said they had requested compensation from the government.
“We have written to the government pointing these facts out and making a request for compensation for loss of income. We have received an acknowledgement of our request but so far we have not received a substantive reply,” he said.
The LCSD, however, said last night it was still considering the timing of the project and that “major users of the stadium, including the HKFA and the Rugby Football Union, have been and will continue to be consulted”.