Constant criticism no help, says Mark Sutcliffe
HKFA chief wants clubs to support new Premier League, which now has sponsorship
The Hong Kong Football Association has called for support from its member clubs as it puts the finishing touches to commercial sponsorship for the inaugural Premier League to kick off in September.
With RedMR, title sponsor for last season's First Division, showing little interest in extending its financial backing, the association has been struggling to secure a new contract until this week. It is believed a six-figure deal has been reached in principle, with details to be announced next week.
But negative comments from clubs - the latest from Eastern Salon official Peter Leung Shou-chi, who claimed "the new league was no different to the old one" and the HKFA had become more bureaucratic under Project Phoenix - were counterproductive, said HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe.
"We are on the verge of signing a sponsorship deal for the Premier League and if it comes about, it will help us make it different," he said. "But if the clubs are being negative, criticising the HKFA all the time and making it appear there is a division between the clubs and the association, we have less chance of getting a sponsor.
"My message to the clubs is that we have to work together and we can't be seen to be separate and split on this.
"If everybody wants soccer in Hong Kong to move forward and they want the standard of professionalism to improve, they have to work together.
"Making comments without any justification like speculating that the league is going to be no different is not helpful at all and it's really counterproductive," said Sutcliffe.
"All they are doing is condemning themselves and football in Hong Kong to remaining semi professional, which is not what people want."
Sutcliffe said the new league would be different because the introduction of licences to the clubs would be a massive step forward.
"It makes it more likely the game will be clean because the HKFA want to know, through the licences, who is governing and managing the club and where the money is coming from.
"There is going to be an education programme for the players and they have to sign a declaration they have been educated on match fixing. We will enter into a contract with a monitoring agent, which will monitor the games closely. A lot of things we are going to do will make the league better," Sutcliffe said.