Debt-ridden Michelotti booted out of league

CRISIS club Michelotti were thrown out of Hongkong soccer last night for failing to pay nearly $1 million outstanding wages to their players.

Hongkong Football Association chiefs also confirmed life-time bans on the club's three office-bearers and pledged to examine ways of offering players greater security of contract in future.

Yesterday's decision reduces the First Division to eight clubs following the earlier withdrawal of big-spending Ernest Borel.

The division could be restored to 10 clubs if the HKFA accept the registration of newcomers King Network and the reinstatement of relegated Kui Tan.

Michelotti, who joined the league two years ago after taking over Po Chai Pills' registration, were kicked out for failing to meet several HKFA deadlines to pay their players.

None of the club's office-bearers - chairman Alfred Yuen Kwok-fan, president Chan Mo-wang and secretary Sek Kam-wah - attended yesterday's meeting.

HKFA chairman Victor Hui Chun-fui, due to step down after the body's annual meeting on Sunday, said: ''We sympathise with the players but all we can do is refuse Michelotti's registration.

''We will also go ahead with our decision to ban their three office bearers from any association with Hongkong soccer in the future.'' However Hui added that the HKFA would be looking at ways to give players more protection, especially with regard to sponsors who became involved in soccer for purely commercial reasons and who had little commitment to the sport.

At present sponsors can ''buy'' an existing club and be allowed to change the team name by paying the HKFA $350,000 over three seasons, with an initial payment of $200,000 followed by further sums of $100,000 and $50,000 over the next two years.

Hui said: ''Clubs who sell or lend their registrations to commercial sponsors should be held responsible if the team management fail to honour their contracts with players.

''We also want players to inform us if they are owed more than a month's wages so we can take appropriate action, like withholding the club's revenue from gate receipts, in order to settle the players' wages.'' Borel, backed by the Swiss watch manufacturers of the same name, joined the league in 1990 after taking over the Sea Bee registration and won the Viceroy Cup and FA Cup in only their second season.

The success prompted the sponsors to increase their budget to $10 million for their 1992-93 campaign. But after a disappointing season Borel president Steven Lam Wai-wah announced their withdrawal from the league.

The Sea Bee registration could now be taken over by former Michelotti vice-chairman Simon Wan Chi-lok, who is forming his own team, King Network.

Kui Tan, who finished second from the bottom last season and were relegated, have applied for reinstatement.

HKFA secretary Vincent Yuen Man-chuen said: ''We still haven't received an application from Sea Bee to enter a team for next season but the deadline won't be until July 18.

''As for Kui Tan, the decision on whether their application for reinstatement will be accepted rests with the new FA council to be elected on Sunday.'' Meanwhile, outgoing chairman Hui has written a $4 million personal cheque so the HKFA can repay a bank loan due tomorrow on the deficit incurred from hosting last year's FIFA five-a-side world championships.

The HKFA, who hoped soccer's world governing body, FIFA, would cover any deficit, suffered a loss of $6 million in staging the 16-team tournament.

FIFA reimbursed the HKFA almost $2 million in addition to an earlier payment of $300,000 but made it clear no more money will be forthcoming.

Hui said: ''I have offered the the HKFA a $4 million personal loan as I do not want them to lose further interest on the bank loan.

''Our president [Henry Fok Ying-tung] is currently out of town but after his return we will reopen negotiations with FIFA to cover our losses.'' On a brighter note, the HKFA have received a $2 million ''donation'' from the Royal Hongkong Jockey Club for loss of revenue due to the closure of the Hongkong Stadium.