Special treatment: Guangzhou R&F will get players’ concessions if they compete in Hong Kong Premier League

Chinese club will be exempted from foreign player quota and allowed to use all their mainland players if proposals are approved, making up 11 teams in the top flight

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 10:53pm

Chinese Super League team Guangzhou R&F have been given special treatment as they aim to join the Hong Kong Premier League for the coming season in September.

The club will be allowed to use all their mainland players plus be exempted from foreign player quota if proposals from the Hong Kong Premier League working party, are approved by the Hong Kong Football Association.

The Working Party decided in a meeting on Tuesday night that they will submit a recommendation to the Hong Kong FA board next week that 11 teams will start next season.

The 10 other teams are defending champions Eastern and six HKPL teams – Kitchee, South China, Pegasus, Yuen Long, Rangers and Southern – two newly promoted sides Tai Po and Hong Kong Football Club and Hong Kong Sapling, who are aiming to return to the top flight after playing in the old First Division in the 2011-2012 season.

There will be 20 league matches for each team and at least three more for cup competition
Mark Sutcliffe

Dreams Metro Gallery, who finished sixth in the league last season, have decided to pull out of the HKPL because of financial problems, while relegated Wong Tai Sin are not seeking special dispensation to stay in the top flight.

There had been concerns last month that they would be too few teams in the Premier League for next season, although the problem seems to have been resolved.

“There will be 20 league matches for each team and at least three more for cup competition,” said chief executive Mark Sutcliffe.

“Guangzhou R&F will be a new addition to the competition and will be given special exemption on their players’ status.”

Sutcliffe said as far as he was aware, R&F would be sending a development squad to Hong Kong with 20 players and their mainland players would not be considered as foreign players.

Local clubs are only allowed a maximum registration of six foreign players for each team with four playing at one time and First Division runners-up Football Club, who decided to take up the promotion offer at their EGM meeting on Monday with professional contracts for their players next season, will have to comply with the quota on their number of foreign players.

“R&F will have to register a different set of players in Hong Kong as the Chinese Football Association do not allow players to be registered for two different associations,” said Sutcliffe. “But these mainland players will not be considered overseas players as we will provide them with an exemption. We will also encourage them to sign up more local players from Dreams Metro Gallery and Wong Tai Sin, who are no longer playing in the Premier League.”

Sutcliffe said the inclusion of Guangzhou R&F will make competition more “interesting” and the Chinese club will not compete at the top flight at the expense of local clubs as there are no other takers.

Guangzhou R&F will play their home matches at Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground on Hong Kong Island. However, they won’t be allowed to play in the Playoff for AFC competition at the end of the season or represent Hong Kong in the AFC Champions League even if they win the Premier League title next season.