Lunar New Year

No takers: Lunar New Year Cup likely to be scrapped

The showpiece event, that began in the 1950s, will probably be axed with no Premier League club interested in running the tournament

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 January, 2016, 9:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 4:23pm

The Lunar New Year Cup, one of the longest-running soccer tournaments in Hong Kong that began in the 1950s, is likely to be axed this year with local clubs expressing no desire to organise the signature event.

The tournament has seen declining fortunes in recent years with dwindling gate receipts as organisers struggled to secure top-quality overseas sides.

If you told me there was not going to be a Lunar New Year Cup this year, I wouldn’t believe it
Peter Leung Shou-chi

The Hong Kong Football Association passed control of the tournament to local clubs in 2010. But so far there have been no takers and no Premier League club interested in taking the reins with just one month to go before a decision has to be made as to whether the tournament will be held or not.

Pegasus had considered underwriting the tournament but that initiative stalled, while South China, organisers of the 2015 event, have shown little interest in continuing their support.

Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak was tight-lipped on whether they would scrap the tournament, scheduled for the second week of February, but admitted the situation was critical with time running out in a bid to secure overseas teams.

“We will be discussing the matter at the forthcoming board meeting,” said Leung. “Getting overseas teams to Hong Kong will be unlikely at this stage as it involves a lot of discussions and logistics. We have to work out a solution.”

Eastern director Peter Leung Shou-chi said not holding the traditional tournament would be a huge disappointment to fans.

“I have been involved in soccer for 41 years and in all those years the Lunar New Year Cup was always held even though the playing formats were different in some years,” he said.

“Watching soccer on the [first day] of the Chinese New Year has become a tradition for many fans and if you told me there was not going to be a Lunar New Year Cup this year, I wouldn’t believe it.

“We have to sort something out, even without the presence of overseas teams as we understand time won’t allow us to do this.”

Among suggestions mooted is to stage the Senior Shield final between Eastern and Southern, slated for January 24, on the Lunar New Year Cup dates or reschedule a clash between two top local clubs.

The Lunar New Year Cup was once a major source of income for the HKFA when they received HK$3 million annually from sponsors Carlsberg. The beer firm withdrew its support in 2007, ending a partnership that lasted more than 10 years.

In 2007, the HKFA invited Croatian side Hadjuk Split, Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea and Penarol of Uruguay to the tournament, but the association ended up HK$4 million in the red.