HKFA to review eligibility rules after Kitchee fields Hong Kong-born Kiwi

Clash with South China set to decide title as champions escape points penalty on technicality after fielding player with no work permit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 4:31am

The Hong Kong Football Association will revisit its eligibility rules after league champions Kitchee were found to have fielded a Hong Kong-born New Zealand national as a local despite him not having a work permit.

The HKFA board yesterday decided that Kitchee should not face sanctions for playing Shay Spitz  in six games earlier in the season, even though the Kiwi did not have documentation to work in the city.

The board decided that Kitchee had not breached its rules because they had presented Spitz's Hong Kong birth certificate when registering him as a "local" player. But the board said Kitchee might be in breach of the law as Spitz, who played in the league between October 7 and January 25, did not have a work permit. "The existing FA rules do not require a player to hold a work permit, it's only required by the Immigration Department," a source close to the board said. "In that sense, the association cannot charge Kitchee, even if the club may have breached the law by hiring an illegal worker."

If Kitchee had been sanctioned, they would likely have been docked 14 points, which they picked up in the six matches that Spitz played.

Instead, Sunday's match against league leaders South China at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground will now prove pivotal.

The Caroliners lead Kitchee by two points and the winners on Sunday will almost certainly be crowned champions, as there are only two rounds of games to go in the season.

South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing, who is also a vice-chairman of the board, did not want to comment directly on last night's decision, saying only: "The saga is now over and we want to prove we are worthy champions by beating Kitchee on the pitch."

HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak admitted there were grey areas in the rules and that a review would be held.

"The rules have been used for many years and some of them may not fit the current situation. We will have to review them as soon as possible," he said.

However, Yokohama coach Lee Chi-kin was upset about the decision.

"I don't think it was a fair decision," said Lee, whose side dropped four points in two matches against Kitchee, while Spitz was in the team.

"We don't understand how a foreigner can play without a work permit. We will study the case with our legal advisers and may consider taking further action."

Spitz, a defender, has not been seen in Hong Kong since February and it is believed he is now continuing his career in the United States.