Hong Kong have escaped censure for fielding a South China-only team at the East Asian Championship qualifiers in Taiwan last week - and will get to keep the US$50,000 first prize. The East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) executive committee yesterday ruled in Hong Kong's favour, despite the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) having been accused of 'debasing the tournament' by the regional federation's general secretary, Takeo Okada. Okada also threatened Hong Kong with severe financial repercussions, saying 'it is not acceptable that a team consisting of players belonging to a single club team be recognised as a national A team'. But the EAFF executive committee, which met in Beijing yesterday, could find no wrong doing, said chairman of the HKFA Brian Leung Hung-tak. 'I think it's a fair decision,' Leung said. 'We sent the strongest possible squad to Taiwan and came first among the four participating teams. There are no grounds for us breaking the rules.' Hong Kong team manager Steven Lo Kit-sing had insisted they did nothing wrong. 'South China have all the best players,' said Lo, who is also the convenor of South China. 'We have never seen any rule stating a national team cannot be represented by players from only one team.' The East Asian Championship is the flagship tournament of the EAFF and the federation wants to protect its integrity. 'What would happen if South Korea or Japan sent a club to represent them?' one official asked. Leung said the EAFF would hand over the first place prize-money of US$50,000 and would not ask the HKFA to repay the expenses for airfares and board and lodgings - estimated to be about another US$50,000 - as threatened in a letter sent by the EAFF to the FA. The HKFA had also been given US$100,000 to prepare the team for the qualifiers. Hong Kong beat Guam and Taiwan and drew with World Cup finalists North Korea to clinch a place in the championship finals in Japan in February. China and South Korea are the other two participants. 'The incident is all over now and we will start our preparations for the final round soon,' Leung said. 'A training squad will be selected later as we look forward to achieving a good result in Japan.' Although Leung said it was too early to comment on the composition of the Hong Kong team, it would contain players from other clubs. 'There was an agreement at the EAFF meeting that Hong Kong cannot be represented by players from one single team for the finals in Japan,' said a source who attended the meeting in Beijing. Hong Kong will be making their second appearance in the finals, having qualified in 2003 after North Korea failed to take part. Manager Lo said they would aim for a third-placed finish in the finals. 'The finals offer a lot of prize money as third place is worth US$300,000. But money is not the major concern as we want to prove Hong Kong football is getting better and will able to compete with the best of the region,' he said.