Hong Kong's elite coaches at the Sports Institute in Sha Tin reacted with dismay yesterday after learning their contracts had been extended by only six months. The 13-strong band was cast into no-man's land after the Sports Development Board (SDB) took the stop-gap measure due to its own fate being in limbo as the government has still not made a move to implement its blueprint - the Sports Policy Review - unveiled last year to improve Hong Kong's sporting status. 'It is very disappointing and not an ideal situation,' said Rene Appel, head windsurfing coach. 'When we should be looking ahead to next year's Olympic Games, and then two more years further, to the next Asian Games, we find ourselves taking a short-term approach. For sport in general, it is disappointing. 'This is simply buying time and is not ideal at all. We are in no-man's land. After spending years improving the sport and athletes, we are now taking a short-term approach without any clear indication what the future holds,' said Appel, who has been the force behind Hong Kong windsurfing heroine Lee Lai-shan. Added head squash coach Tony Choi: 'This is not good for morale and the atmosphere is bad. It will affect the athletes, too, as no one is making any long-term decisions as far as preparation is concerned. 'This makes it very difficult for us to take a long-term approach and plan. But we are professionals and we will carry on doing our jobs. But what has been done is not good for morale,' added Choi, who has helped Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin develop into a world-class player. Appel and Choi are two of the SAR's leading coaches and were responsible for Hong Kong winning two of the five gold medals at last year's Asian Games in South Korea. Among the recommendations made by the Home Affairs Department's blueprint was a key proposal that the SDB, which runs the Sports Institute, be axed in favour of a new, high-powered sports commission which would map out policies and funding for sports groups. It is thought that more than 10 per cent of the 300-strong SDB staff would be made redundant when the new sports commission was in place. Last year the Audit Commission said the SDB staff were overpaid. It has annual government funding of about $260 million, but only about $100 million is spent on subsidies for sports groups with the rest swallowed by administration and salary costs. With its own future unclear, the SDB's board of directors decided on Monday night that the best thing would be to extend all coaches and senior staff contracts by a further six months until the end of September. 'All contracts have been renewed for a further six months on their present packages. This is for all the head coaches and other senior staff. We had to take this move because we are still waiting for the government to make a decision,' said a member of the SDB board. SDB chairman John Hung did not return calls from the Post yesterday. Neither did Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping or deputy secretary Lolly Chiu, who is in charge of sports. But information officer Lilly Chen said the department was 'still working on the review' after receiving 380 responses from the public consultation process. 'We have nothing to announce as yet until we have the analysis of these views. There is no timetable as to when we have to make an announcement, but in due course we will,' said Chen. A senior sports official, however, revealed that sport came low down on the priority of Ho and the Home Affairs Department. 'Probably no decisions on the SDB or anything else will be taken until the end of this year. Sport is not very high on his list,' said the source. Only 11 head coaches are employed by the Sports Institute, as the positions for athletics and tenpin bowling are vacant. The other elite category sports are badminton, cycling, fencing, rowing, squash, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, windsurfing and wushu. All contracts are generally on a two-year basis and they were all supposed to expire at the end of March 2003 - the odd year in-between an Asian Games and an Olympic Games. When asked to comment on the uncertainty created by the unprecedented short-term contracts, Sports Institute head Dr Chung Pak-kwong refused to elaborate other than confirming a decision had been taken at Monday's SDB board meeting. 'Even my position is under review. All contracts are being reviewed by the board,' was all Chung, SDB director elite training and sports development, said on the six-month extensions for his senior staff.