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Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

Government backs Hong Kong Football Association over ‘irregularities’ in appointment of head coach Gary White

  • Secretary for Home Affairs says impartiality of the recruitment exercise had not been compromised
  • HKFA admits the current policy and procedures and their implementation should be reviewed and improved
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2018, 6:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2018, 11:52pm

Top Hong Kong government official Lau Kong-wah has defended the Hong Kong Football Association over allegations it failed to follow accepted procedure in the appointment of Englishman Gary White as head coach.

Democratic Party legislator Andrew Wan Siu-kin questioned Secretary for Home Affairs Lau in the Legislature Council on Wednesday over news reports alleging irregularities with the appointment, namely that White applied after the deadline and was therefore ineligible.

In July, Apple Daily reported HKFA board director Canny Leung Chi-san, who had been on the board since 2015, as saying: “If White is given the job, I will resign”, which she duly did in November.

Then Apple Daily subsequently published an interview with Leung in which she alleged that White had sent in his application after the formal deadline, that he was only interviewed by two of the recruitment panel and that he received his contract before the board meeting.

Wan asked whether the government knew about the details of the recruitment process and the measures taken to ensure it “complied with the procedure and the principles of openness, impartiality and prudent use of public funds”.

The Hong Kong FA is in its second cycle of government funding, which began in 2015, and it receives HK$25 million per year. Most of this is used to pay staff, including the chief executive and the head coach.

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After receiving the relevant information from the HKFA on its current five-year plan, Lau listed out the details of the recruitment process.

“We understand that during the board’s deliberation of the selection panel’s recommendation, one of the directors questioned the CEO’s deviation from the relevant policy and procedures in certain parts of the recruitment exercise and his lateness in informing the board,” he said.

“While the board recognised that there was room for improvement in the handling of the recruitment exercise, the majority of the directors considered that the impartiality of this recruitment exercise had not been compromised and the board had therefore decided to accept the recommendation of the selection panel.

“The board, however, agreed that the current policy and procedures and their implementation should be reviewed and improved,” Lau said.

Questions were also asked over the spending of the government funding and pay of individual roles within the HKFA, with a particular focus on the benefits for the vacant CEO position.

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Former CEO Mark Sutcliffe, who was in charge during the recruitment process, left in September upon the expiration of his contract.

Wan also asked for the details on the process to recruit his successor, with Lau responding: “On October 2, 2018, the board approved the appointment of its head of football development as the acting CEO for a period of six months. We understand that the HKFA is currently preparing for the CEO recruitment exercise.”

The allegations have come at a time when Hong Kong football is on a relative high.

White has started the job well, winning the EAFF Championship to take Hong Kong through to the finals in South Korea late next year.

The HKFA had no comment.