New Hong Kong Premier League no different to First Division: Peter Leung

Eastern boss says the much-hyped competition will have little impact on the local game as the HKFA becomes more bureaucratic

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 11:43pm

The Premier League, due to be launched in September, is little different from its predecessor and will hardly change domestic soccer, top club official Peter Leung Shou-chi said yesterday.

Leung, a director of ambitious side Eastern, said he was disappointed with the way things were being handled by the administration, saying nothing had been done to move the sport forward.

"The Hong Kong Football Association has become more bureaucratic under Phoenix Project; the only thing they have done is hire more people to do jobs, which were handled by fewer people before," said Leung, who presided over his team's first practice session in preparation for the new season.

I just can't find any major difference from the previous First Division. There is a change in name, but there is no change in substance
Peter Leung Shou-chi

"We see many people working busily in the premises, but when we need assistance, we have little idea of whom to approach.

"We are going to have the new Premier League, but I just can't find any major difference from the previous First Division. There is a change in name, but there is no change in substance."

Leung said in professional leagues like those in England, Europe and Japan, clubs have a strong say in matters relating to the league, but this did not appear to be the case in Hong Kong.

"There have been no discussions on setting up a Premier League decision-making body consisting mainly of the participating clubs. As things stand, all the decisions are likely to still be made by the HKFA board, which has little club representation.

"This should not be the way to run a professional league," he said.

Four of the nine HKFA directors are club representatives: Kitchee's Ken Ng Kin, Wilson Wong Wai-shun of Yuen Long, Steven Lo Kit-sing (formerly of South China and who has taken an indefinite leave of absence but not been replaced on the board) and Pui Kwan-kay, the boss of Citizen, who have opted not to join the Premier League. The other directors are elected from the community.

"The clubs are the ones who make the investment, but they have no say in their own business. It is a bit absurd," said Leung.

Despite his unhappiness, Leung still has big plans for Eastern, putting up more than HK$20 million as he aims for a clean sweep of all domestic titles.

"We spent around HK$20 million last season when we won the FA Cup, but with more quality players coming in, the new budget will certainly be increased even though we cannot give an exact amount at this stage," said Leung. "Our top target will be the league championship because we want to be the champions."

Eastern's sixth-place finish last season allowed them to switch their home ground from the remote Shing Mun Valley Sports Ground in Kwai Chung to Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground. While this was an improvement, Leung said winning the league would give them first choice in the matter of selecting a home ground and this would be a powerful spur for his side.