Local amateur sides are likely to make a return to the First Division following an amendment in the ruling governing professionalism. This will open the way for amateur clubs like Hong Kong Football Club to return to the top flight, currently only open to professional clubs. The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) have previously closed the door on amateur sides even if they have won promotion from the Second Division. The HKFA had previously stated that eight of the 18 players in the club must earn a minimum monthly wage of HK$10,000, while the rest of the players must earn a minimum of $5,000 to be termed 'professional'. But this season has seen a dramatic drop in crowd attendances and the HKFA are now trying to arrest the declining figures by creating what they said would be a 'more competitive league' by inviting top amateur sides. The HKFA were also forced to make changes to the law when they admitted that the all-professional league was not at all 'all-professional' since local side Rangers have failed to meet the requirements, employing mostly youngsters in their roster. The HKFA will now allow amateur sides to play in the top flight next season provided that they receive approval from the FA council. Hong Kong Football Club, who have tried to gain entry back into the First Division for several years and are the oldest club in the SAR, would look at the new ruling as a significant victory for them and other amateur clubs. HKFA vice-chairman Ken Ng said the amended rule would make the league more competitive. There are currently only eight teams playing in the top flight. 'By having more clubs compete, the league would become more competitive. It doesn't matter whether the league is fully professional or semi-professional,' said Ng. 'These amateur clubs must, however, state emphatically that they would be fielding a competitive team if they wish to play in the First Division before they are admitted into the league.' Meanwhile, Brazilian striker Leandro Simioni will make history later this month by becoming the first Hong Kong-based player to play in the J-League. Simioni, who this season played for Yee Hope after stints with now-defunct Golden and Sai Kung, will join top side Yokohama F-Marinos, the 1995 J-League champions. Simioni has been a hit in the SAR since first appearing in the First Division three years ago. The 26-year-old Brazilian, who had spells with Brazilian club Portuguesa Desportos, was the league's top goalscorer last season and also played a significant part in Yee Hope's triumph in the Senior Challenge Shield this season. 'This is a great opportunity for me. I am very glad that I have been given the opportunity to play for a good side and it has always been my goal to play in the J-League. Here's my chance,' said Simioni.