The annual Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup could be played over just one leg for the first time in its 40-year history because of concerns over the social unrest still plaguing the city. The Interport Cup was first played over two legs in 1979 and has been held annually ever since but it’s now in danger of being a one-leg match after mainland authorities told the Hong Kong Football Association they were reluctant to send a team across the border because of the ongoing protests now entering its seventh month. The popular competition usually takes place in late December and then early in the new year in a two-leg, home-and-away format but it is likely to be a straight up final in Guangzhou this time around. Hong Kong Football Association chairman Pui Kwan-kay said his organisation was negotiating with Guangdong to try to keep the tournament in its traditional format. “We understand their [Guangdong] concerns after they watched it [the protests] on TV and were exposed to some terrible scenes,” said the football chief. “They have to put their players’ safety first and may choose not to come to Hong Kong. EAFF E-1 Football Championship preview: Hong Kong take on China, Japan and South Korea in Busan – squads, fixtures and everything you need to know “The tournament has a long tradition with fans from both sides having the opportunity to support their teams on home soil [home-and-away]. We are very keen to keep the tournament in its original format and we will discuss the matter with all concerned parties to sort it out as soon as possible.” Mainland reports said Guangdong authorities are considering not to send a team to Hong Kong for this year’s Interport, citing safety reasons and they have asked for the tournament to be reduced to just one leg to be played in Guangzhou. Pui said Hong Kong had staged three international games since anti-government protests first broke out in June and all three matches were “played without major disruption”. World Cup 2022: First win for Hong Kong as Mixu Paatelainen’s side beat Keisuke Honda’s Cambodia at Hong Kong Stadium “There were also similar concerns when we hosted the World Cup qualifiers here. We even issued a letter of safety guaranteeing the Asian Football Confederation ahead of the Iran match and in the end all three matches were completed smoothly and without incident,” he said. “We will ensure there will be tight security for the interport tournament to guarantee the safety of the visitors.” Hong Kong played Iran, Bahrain and Cambodia in three home World Cup qualifiers in group C since September – all held at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium. The Iran game on September 10 attracted almost 14,000 fans, one of the biggest crowd attendances in recent times for the Hong Kong team. Guangdong have won the Interport Cup 24 times, while Hong Kong have won it 17 times, including the 2019 edition when Hong Kong thrashed the visitors 4-0 at the So Kon Po venue having lost the away leg 2-1 in Guangzhou.