For the first time the Hong Kong Jockey Club, through chairman of stewards Alan Li Fook-sum, has said it 'would seriously consider' football betting if the Government made an approach to the racing authority. Li made the statement earlier this week. Essentially, the urbane chairman of stewards was 'ambushed' by a diligent media and his statement has produced intense speculation. Li said: 'We know there are a lot of Hong Kong people interested in soccer. If there was a need for it [betting] and the Government approached us and if the Club thought it was good, then we would seriously consider it.' There were a number of ifs and a few unspoken buts about it all and Jockey Club information secretary Wilson Cheng re-stated the official position yesterday: 'Basically, we are in a passive role. The Club has not discussed this matter with the Government yet. The initiative, as we see it, must come from the Government. It is really up to them.' That there is a definite market for football betting in Hong Kong is simply not in doubt. Just two days before Li made his statement, it is reliably reported that a staggering $100 million was bet on the outcome of the Arsenal versus Chelsea Premier League game. It is now becoming crystal clear that a burgeoning number of illegal bookmakers are doing a highly lucrative business betting on the live games shown on Cable TV every weekend. Football betting is booming across Asia and the massive English pools concern of Littlewoods is now empowered to run betting on the sport in South Korea. That has only just been legalised. Littlewoods is rumoured to have taken a 50 per cent interest in a Singapore-based football betting concern and is said to be eyeing other Asian outlets. And there is scarcely a bigger Asian outlet than Hong Kong. Football betting has been up and running highly successfully in Singapore for some time and early next month a senior official of the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) will go there on a fact-finding mission. HKFA vice-chairman Ken Ng is arguably the most forward-thinking football official to have held a post in years and he is adamant that legal betting is one way forward for Hong Kong - and the sport here. 'It is inherently wrong that millions and millions of dollars leave Hong Kong for overseas on football betting. It is not as if it could not be run in Hong Kong. 'Actually it is already, but obviously illegally,' he said yesterday. Ng's brief is to find out exactly how football betting is run in Singapore and how much of it goes back into the development of football in the island republic. 'That is what is of paramount interest and importance to the HKFA. Some of the massive money generated through football betting should go back into the sport, whether it is in Singapore, South Korea or Hong Kong. 'Proper development of football requires money. Training grounds, overseas coaches, sending youth teams abroad, all these areas require money and there's not a lot of it around at the moment,' said Ng. A guaranteed income would enable long-range planning to take place and dramatically raise the standard of the local game. It is considered likely that the HKFA will eventually approach the Government about football betting although it has no interest in or intention of getting involved in any way. 'The obvious way to implement it would be through the Jockey Club because it has a basic infrastructure and betting is its business. 'There is also a question of trust. Hong Kong people know the Jockey Club, bet with it and are comfortable with that. And the money goes back into Hong Kong. 'However, I am sure that if the Government decided to legalise football betting and asked for tenders to operate it, there would be a lot of overseas companies very interested,' he said. Ng is unquestionably correct with that statement. Sooner rather than later, the Government is going to have to look long and hard at legalised football betting. Inaction will lead to a disastrous own goal being scored.