The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) has decided to go ahead and complete the domestic Premier League season amid the Covid-19 pandemic, finally bringing to an end a months-old saga on whether the competition would continue or be abandoned. However, the HKFA said after its boarding meeting on Thursday that it had rejected a proposed “bubble” plan that would see teams play at a centralised venue because of the high costs involved. Instead, the proposal is to adopt a more cost-effective version of home quarantine for the six teams who expressed interest in finishing the season, which was halted in March because of the pandemic. “We have made a quick calculation and the bubble plan would cost over HK$10 million for a period of six weeks to complete the season,” association chairman Pui Kwan-kay said. “I don’t think we can afford it. Both the association and clubs have been struggling under the pandemic. “After consulting our medical adviser, we plan to use a home quarantine method which would be affordable. We will consult the six clubs and see if they will accept this cheaper plan.” The HKFA and clubs have been back and forth over the past few months on whether to restart the season. The six teams willing to play on are leaders R&F, Kitchee, Southern, Lee Man, Eastern and Happy Valley. Pegasus and Rangers said they would only rejoin the league next season while Yuen Long and champions Tai Po have pulled out because of financial difficulties. Pui said the home quarantine plan would cost about HK$3 million, with the money used mainly to pay the fee for players and officials to undergo Covid-19 testing. A bubble plan would have included hotel accommodation and other expenses. He said the costs could drop even lower with the government planning to introduce cheaper testing methods using mainland companies. “For home quarantine, we would test the players two days before each match and then put them in isolation at home until they play,” Pui said. “But it may still cause problems for the players’ families and affect their daily lives. “That’s why we still have to seek opinions from the clubs.” Should the clubs agree to the plan, the costs would be borne by the HKFA – which can make use of world governing body Fifa’s pandemic fund allocated for each member association. ‘We may have to abandon the season’ – Hong Kong Premier League thrown into disarray as pandemic returns Fifa announced in June that a universal solidarity grant of US$1 million would be made available to all national bodies. “Fifa will provide US$1 million for each member association to tackle the pandemic but already half of that amount will be taken up by the association for various measures during this period,” Pui said. “We can only use the remaining sum for the expenses on home quarantine.” The chief said they planned to use their Football Training Centre in Tseung Kwan O and Kitchee’s Shek Mun centre as training venues for the teams before they restart the season. “Both centres are now closed because of the pandemic but we hope to open them later this month for training so that the remainder of the season can start in September,” he said. “There will be 17 matches left for the six teams and if everything goes well, we can finish the season before October.” The association will discuss with the government on allowing them to first reopen the two training centres and then a stadium for matches in September. “It all depends on the pandemic situation but it seems the third wave [of the pandemic] is under control and this plan may be possible,” Pui said. “The rest of the season will also be played behind closed doors and hopefully we can use either the Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground or Mong Kok Stadium for competition.” Resuming the Hong Kong Premier League ‘quite risky’ to Covid-19 infection, say local researchers Other than the league, there are also three cup finals to be played, which will decide the Hong Kong clubs to take part in next year’s AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. While R&F are leading the standings, Southern, Kitchee, Lee Man and Eastern are still in contention for the championship.