Guangzhou R&F must field four local players to join Hong Kong Premier League, says board

Chinese Super League Club have two days to submit a reply to Hong Kong Football Association on whether they will accept the new rule to play in the city’s top flight competition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2016, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2016, 9:50am

The HKFA board on Monday imposed a “local player” rule on Guangzhou R&F after a wave of opposition from clubs, players and fans over the Chinese Super League team’s plans to field only mainland players in the Hong Kong Premier League next season.

At a Hong Kong Football Association board meeting on Monday, members agreed a resolution stipulating that Guangzhou R&F’s development squad must field at least four Hong Kong players at every match.

The resolution followed heated discussions on expanding the number of teams playing in the Premier League from nine last season to 11 next term.

“We have listened to comments made by clubs, players and other stakeholders after the recommendations of the working party and it’s now up to Guangzhou R&F to decide if they want to become the 11th team in the Premier League next season,” said Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak.

Guangzhou R&F, who have also agreed to sponsor a cup competition to the tune of HK$1 million, have two days to reply to the board on whether they would accept the new rule.

“There will be more opportunities for Hong Kong players according to the new rule and the clubs can also benefit through the sponsorship fee. It is a win-win situation,” added Leung.

The working party also suggested that the mainland club could be given special treatment by being exempt from foreign player quotas.

The working party’s proposal to allow Guangzhou R&F to join the Premier League sparked concern among Hong Kong fans, who expressed anger over the plan on a Facebook public group page called “No special treatment; give us back our HK Premier League”.

Before Monday’s board meeting, three disgruntled fans, who claimed to represent the 500-plus members of the Facebook page, protested against the recommendation.

But Leung, who received the fans and invited them for a brief discussion, insisted the recommendation is in the best interests of Hong Kong soccer.

“We have stated very clearly that it is our target of having 12 teams in the Premier League and in fact we still have not reach the target even with the participation of Guangzhou R&F,” said the chief.

“The mainland team can bring in more resources to our competition and they have also promised to use overseas coaches for their squad, which means our players can learn from them.

“There is also no need for the teams to play the away match in China as Guangzhou R&F will come down to Hong Kong to be based at Siu Sai Wan.

“All these are positive steps and can help Hong Kong soccer. I see no reason for not allowing them to join.”

The board also approved the admission of Tai Po, Hong Kong Football Club and Hong Kong Sapling, who will join defending champions Eastern, Kitchee, South China, Pegasus, Yuen Long, Rangers and Southern next season, which starts in September.

Hong Kong Sapling are aiming to return to the top flight after playing in the old First Division in the 2011-2012 season and the HKFC will be holding player tryouts on Wednesday night to unearth fresh local talent.

One of the board members, Wilson Wong Wai-shun, who is the boss of Premier League side Yuen Long, said they should only consider teams from outside Hong Kong under special circumstances.

“I don’t think it is necessary to invite a mainland team as long as we already had 10 teams for the Premier League next season,” said Wong.

“I have reflected my views at the meeting, but I respect the board’s decision [on Guangzhou R&F to join the Premier League].”