No 'entrance fee' for new league, Mark Sutcliffe pledges

FA chief executive dismisses rumours clubs would have to pay up to HK$4m to join

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 10:26pm

Hong Kong Football Association chief executive Mark Sutcliffe on Thursday quashed rumours that clubs hoping to sign up to the new Premier League would be required to make a down payment of up to HK$4 million.

However, the association did not reveal the full set of criteria for joining the new professional league, saying they still needed some refinement before being presented to individual clubs.

Sutcliffe said these adjustments would be completed very soon, but did confirm there would be no minimum "entrance fee" to the new league, scheduled to kick off in the 2014-15 season.

"We are following the Asian Football Confederation club licensing criteria and there is no such thing as minimum investment in the rules," said Sutcliffe. "There is also no minimum wage set for individual players. The clubs are only required to present an audited financial report."

Sutcliffe said the AFC criteria were set for clubs who intend to take part in the AFC Champions League, but not all the clubs in Hong Kong were aiming for the top-tier regional competition at this stage.

"Our ultimate target is to implement the full set of AFC criteria, but some clubs may not be able to reach this instantly and that's why we decided to fine-tune the requirements to make it easier for some of them," he said.

Once the criteria have been refined, the association will present them to individual clubs and it is hoped the clubs can indicate their intention to join the new league by January.

HKFA director Ken Ng Kin, assigned to work out the refinements with Sutcliffe, was not worried about the number of clubs that could not meet the criteria. "I would expect to see at least seven or eight clubs meet the requirements," he said. "It won't be too difficult and we would also help the other clubs to strengthen their administration so they can also join the new professional league."

A maximum of 12 clubs are envisioned for the new league, the same as in the current First Division.

Meanwhile, Ng confirmed Kitchee had failed to secure German Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart for a friendly on December 15. One of the stumbling blocks was the unavailability of Hong Kong Stadium.

In another development, Citizen boss Pui Kwan-Kay said they had lined up J-League side Tokyo FC for the Chinese New Year Tournament, while a team from Russia and from South Korea's K-League have also been identified.