Mainland China club Guangzhou R&F could play in Hong Kong Premier League

Chinese Super League club interested in having development club play in what many will see as first steps to leagues becoming more integrated

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 June, 2016, 9:46am

Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F have expressed interest in taking part in the Hong Kong Premier League as the HKFA struggles to secure 10 clubs in the fledging top flight competition for next season.

The board is happy in principle to invite them to join, but there are still a number of issues to be resolved
Mark Sutcliffe

After a Hong Kong Football Association board meeting yesterday, chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said it had received a letter from Guangzhou R&F expressing interest in fielding a development team in the Premier League.

“The board is happy in principle to invite them to join, but there are still a number of issues to be resolved such as players’ status and home venue,” Sutcliffe said.

“We will discuss with them in a meeting next week to resolve these issues. But I think we want to give the priority to teams in Hong Kong.”

Sutcliffe could not confirm when or where the meeting would be held.

The HKFA, meanwhile, is struggling to reach the 10-team target for next season as a number of clubs face financial difficulties and may not be able to take part.

Sutcliffe said the HKFA had received a licence application from eight clubs and the deadline for submissions was June 30. Dreams Metro Galley, who finished sixth in the league and First Division champions Tai Po are both believed to be having difficulties in getting sponsorship.

And nothing has been heard from relegated Wong Tai Sin, who had once said the club would apply to reinstate their position in the top flight.

There were nine teams in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, which made the scheduling of fixtures difficult.

Sutcliffe said the situation was not ideal. “It was agreed that we are targeting 10 teams and each team will play a minimum of 24 matches, but we haven’t formulated the competition format yet because we need to know how many teams are going to participate,” he said.

“Dreams Metro Gallery are one of the clubs that remain a question mark over whether they can get sponsorship in time.

“They are interested, but there is the financial issue and the ownership issue to resolve.

“Tai Po and Football Club [both won promotion from the First Division] are also interested in participating and still have one or two outstanding issues as well.

“There is quite a lot of interest, but we want to make sure we convert their interest, so that they can meet the criteria for the licence.”

Tai Po secretary Chan Ping said officials wanted to resolve the club’s financial backing first.

“You need a budget of at least HK$5 million to form a team in the Premier League, but to be honest we have yet to come close to that figure,” said Chan.

“That’s why we have not yet made the application and, hopefully, there can be good news in a couple of days.”