BY mid-January Hong Kong will know who is in and who is out of favour with the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI). A decision has been made by the bigwigs at the Sha Tin sports academy as to which sports will be supported and at what level. The final bits of paperwork are now being done. But while associations hold their breath, the significant news is the institute will soon unveil a plan to stop athletes abdicating their disciplines in pursuit of money. On April 1, a career-development programme will commence where athletes can look into ways to safeguard their future, and continue to be involved in sport at the same time. 'For so long, Hong Kong sport has lost many of its elite athletes to either money or career development. We hope our new programme will allow us to stem this outflow,' director of HKSI, Dennis Whitby, said. The plan is to set up a scheme encouraging leading companies in Hong Kong to take athletes into their employment and give them a basic grounding in a career. 'The idea is to set up a network of companies who are committed to being part of helping sport in Hong Kong and the community overall,' Whitby said. 'They can offer athletes a job, a career, a future. In turn, what they will get out of it is being a part of a programme which will help benefit Hong Kong sport.' According to Whitby, this will be the first time Hong Kong will have such a scheme. The scheme will also be the most significant move in Hong Kong sport's bid to improve its result-oriented image. And it comes at a time when more elite athletes are giving up the game for a secure future - the most recent example being the mass retirement of badminton's top female contingent. Four of the territory's leading players, Chung Hoi-yuk, Chan Oi-ni, Wong Chun-fan and Cheng Yin-sat, retired from the sport to search for jobs - leaving the sport in tatters and national coach Chan Chi-choi with a huge headache. The HKSI hopes the new plan will stop the defections. According to Whitby, this plan will be the final leg of the tripod which will balance the Hong Kong sporting scale towards success. 'We have already set in place an education programme and are giving financial support to athletes. This career development scheme will be the third leg of our plan to encourage athletic endeavour in Hong Kong,' Whitby said. At present the HKSI supports athletes at all levels of education, from school to university, and also hands out financial support to elite athletes. From April 1, Hong Kong's top athletes can have the added option of playing and working at the same time. 'We will be placing a lot of emphasis on this scheme. It is going to be the most important aspect of development at the institute and on its success will also depend the future of Hong Kong sport,' Whitby said.