Exhibitionists who play it safe

Robin Parke

SPORTS promotion is a business not without considerable risk as those involved locally and internationally with the 'High Noon in Hong Kong' debacle know to their cost.

The cost is measured in an awful lot of dollars, of the American variety, plus total credibility.

Those whose working lives centre on the tricky business of persuading Hong Kong people to part with dollars to enter an arena to watch some sporting endeavour are usually known to play safe. There are few who take a complete gamble and attempt to foist international croquet upon us.

The latest sporting venture slightly later this month is the exhibition match between the Chang and McEnroe brothers but, if you can, forgive me in advance for looking at this one with a slightly jaundiced eye.

Tennis seems to be 'in' here and at grassroots level is a tremendously popular sport. Tennis promotion has not been without its ups and downs over the years but has basically thrived because of sponsorship from the cigarette manufacturers - who shall remain nameless here and should do so in all sporting publications.

There's nothing like having your costs underwritten before a tennis ball is smashed across the net.


Back to our December 16 exhibition and what sticks in my throat or, more accurately, suggests I would not be digging into my back pocket is that very word: exhibition.

What's at stake? Sport is all about competition. It's about winning and, on a professional level, it's about winning when the money is on the line. There is simply no substitute for having to be at your best to earn a pay cheque when the final whistle blows, match point is scored or the little white ball drops into the 18th hole for a birdie three . . . and the money's in the bank.

One guy who knows all about that is John McEnroe who did his share of ranting, raving and playing matchless tennis around the world for quite a long time.

Somewhat belatedly, the promoters of this exhibition would seem to be cashing in on a rather greying version of the one-time Superbrat and have come up with an interesting idea of pairing two sets of brothers off against each other.


Frankly, I don't like exhibitions. The incentive is not there for the simple reason that the cash will be paid out, win or lose.

Local soccer fans, who are not noted for tossing dollars down nearby drains, cottoned on a long time ago to teams coming through at the end of a season and playing exhibition matches here.


Too many treated it as a holiday and it showed.

With that in mind, one is left to wonder about the wisdom of bringing Spurs here in May - if that does eventuate. The stories and headlines about troubled Tottenham Hotspur all tend to centre round Jurgen Klinsmann and Ilie Dumitrescu and there is already a suggestion that the two superstars may not tour.

That would make an already doubtful venture doubly damned. And who wants to see a First Division team anyway? No, I'm not mocking the White Hart Lane faithful but if the Damocles sword - or six points deficit at season's end - is not removed, they remain in a heap of trouble.


As for the 'battle' of the brothers, well at least it has the merit of being different. And they say the music at the interval will be first class but kept to levels permitted by the current noise abatement legislation at the wondrous Hong Kong Stadium.

The music from the cash registers may be muted, too.

A TALE of two goalkeepers, one in Hong Kong and the other in Scotland.


As Ho Yung-hing, once the best local player in his position, reflects on a permanent end to his involvement in the game at the ripe old age of 46, evergreen John Burridge keeps right on going at 43.

Ho hit the headlines for a final time when he smacked a referee in the chops after a decision the one-time Taiwan international clearly did not like. The HKFA acted by barring Ho for life although whether they would have done the same had the former Eastern and Seiko player been in the prime of his career, I suggest is doubtful.

In those rather far-off days, Ho would have had friends in high places.

Burridge is the epitome of a dedicated professional in total love with the game. He has played for so many clubs that only the statisticians of the game know the exact number - he doesn't himself - and he is currently with Scottish side Falkirk.

Burridge is the bloke who watches 'Match of the Day' in his boots and gloves, dives across the bed to catch oranges thrown by his wife and trains every day with hometown club, Newcastle United.

It did one good to listen to Burridge talk on the radio about his life in football some days ago - restoring, if it was required, faith in the game and the vast majority of those who play it.

An excellent counterpoint to the troubles of Paul Merson or, on the local front, Ho Yung-hing.