HKFA to encourage other clubs to follow suit in effort to boost spectator interest It is pay-per-view television with a twist - Hong Kong's most-famous club, South China, splashing out HK$100,000 to TVB so fans could watch their opening league game live on Sunday. The unprecedented move was welcomed by the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA), which yesterday encouraged other First Division clubs to follow the lead of the Caroliners, who are bidding to bring back the glory days by 'buying' the interest of the fans. 'It is good for local football as it will bring more publicity and exposure,' said HKFA general secretary Martin Lam Chun-ying. 'Our hope is that by showing games live on television, it will help boost interest and bring the crowds back.' Big-spending South China took the novel step to telecast Sunday's game against Hong Kong Football Club at Mongkok Stadium. In a major policy shift, the normally conservative HKFA endorsed South China's move. The game was shown live on TVB Pearl, attracted 100,800 viewers and improved ratings four-fold during that period. A reasonable crowd - by Hong Kong standards - of 2,159 also paid at the Mongkok turnstiles. 'Clubs can arrange for their matches to be shown live as long as they get our endorsement,' said Lam. 'We will not interfere as long as it is a reasonable number of games. Of course we don't want every match to be telecast live as that would defeat the ultimate purpose of attracting the crowds back. 'South China have so far sought our permission only to show their first game. It was a special occasion and they wanted maximum publicity. I don't know if they will telecast other matches. But other clubs are also welcome to do so,' he said. South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-shing said no decision had been taken on whether to telecast more games. 'This was a one-off arrangement. While I'm pleased we have done this, we will have to study the result and look into it more closely before deciding whether to show more matches live.' Patrick Li Hon-yuen, TVB's executive producer of sports, said the deal worked for both parties. 'The South China game has got an additional 100,000 spectators on TV and it's good for the club and their sponsors. The income can only cover the production cost, but we also benefit because the ratings during that period improved by four times,' he said. Li said promotion of the game on TVB Jade meant a million people were aware the South China game was to be broadcast on its sister channel. 'It should give a strong boost to local football,' he said. The HKFA has also signed a deal with TVB to show a handful of games live this season. Unlike most football associations around the world, the HKFA pays TV companies to broadcast matches. The league opener on Saturday between defending champions Happy Valley and Sun Hei (FA Cup champions) was shown live on TVB Jade, the more popular Chinese channel, and attracted 150,000 viewers. Lam refused to reveal how much it costs the HKFA to telecast games live, and how many would be shown. But he said all cup final matches, and other key games, would be broadcast. It is believed that another First Division club, Kitchee, are also interested in showing their matches live, and are discussing terms with TVB. South China, who have won the league 27 times, were saved from relegation last season, thanks to a reprieve from the HKFA. With a cash injection of HK$10 million, they have signed a Portuguese coach - Jorge Amaral - and a host of professionals from Brazil, Portugal and the mainland.