The former players of Hong Kong Premier League side R&F are “very positive” after their first hearing with the Labour Tribunal over unpaid wages. Guangzhou-based R&F pulled out of the league on October 14 last year, days after the delayed 2020-21 season finished. The club had been the most vocal opponents of the league resuming after its Covid-19 pause. The players, who were all on fixed-term contracts with the club, had between eight and 24 months left to run on their deals when the club pulled out of the Hong Kong Football Association -run league. Nine players – down from the original 12 – were represented at the first hearing by Hugill & Ip on January 26, presided over by Wayne Hariman. The nine players are Fung Hing-wa, Yip Ka-yu, Tse Ka-wing, Roberto, Dudu, Sean Tse, Vas Nunez, Matt Lam and Jared Lum. “We thank the Tribunal for their time and feel very positive after the first hearing,” the players said in a statement. Hong Kong football players battling Chinese owners for unpaid wages “The Presiding Officer made it very clear that the club is bound by the terms of the contracts they entered into with us and could not understand the club’s so-called grounds of defence that do not make sense legally or factually.” Hariman had said that he did not understand the club’s opposition to paying the outstanding wages, which was based on the contracts being “gentleman’s agreements”. The players’ positivity was echoed by their lawyers. Questions over Hong Kong football but China won’t be the answer “The Players have strong claims against the club for clear breaches of their employment agreements and the Employment Ordinance,” Adam Hugill said in a statement. “I am pleased that the Players’ had their day in court and hopefully the club will realise that they can no longer ignore their responsibilities. “While it is a shame that the Players will have to wait over six months for the next hearing (due to the volume of cases the Tribunal is handling), I am confident they will ultimately be successful and fully vindicated”. Guangzhou-based R&F ask clubs to cancel Hong Kong season The next hearing is set for August 16, with both parties expected to submit statements and further evidence. In the meantime, former Hong Kong R&F player Zhi-gin Lam has signed for German fifth-tier side TuS Dassendorf, the club announced.