The Hong Kong Football Association is continuing its search for a new chief executive after all six candidates were unable to prove their suitability during the interview stage, its chairman said. An advertisement for the top job has been sent out again, with applications to close next week. “It is not easy to find the right person to lead an organisation with such huge tasks ahead,” said association chairman Pui Kwan-kay. “Football is the biggest professional sport in Hong Kong with the running of the Premier League and the concerns of many fans. “The chief executive must have strong leadership to move the organisation forward, but at the same time he or she must be acquainted with football development in Hong Kong. “We are in no rush as we want the best man for the job and that’s why we are going to have another round of interviews.” Pui said criticisms made by the government’s Audit Commission report against the HKFA last year, followed by a public hearing by Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee, had made it difficult to find the right candidate. The commission criticised the association for a lack of progress despite being given more than HK$160 million, while the Legislative Council’s accounts committee slammed the body for “poor governance”. The government then said it would impose closer monitoring of funding support for the association while observing stricter governance of the national body. “I am sure there are executives capable of doing the job but those accusations may have been exaggerated and scared off interested persons,” said Pui. “But definitely, the job is full of challenges and we welcome those interested in applying.” According to the job advertisement, the chief executive would be required to lead the implementation of a football development strategy as a means of establishing the HKFA as a financially strong and effective entity. Thereafter, he or she would need “to oversee and direct the activities of the HKFA in such a manner that ensures the sustainability of the organisation as a strong and effective governing body”. Hong Kong football saved but lambasted FA under scrutiny The position of chief executive officer was introduced in 2011 under the government-led Project Phoenix, with an injection of HK$25 million in funding a year to help revamp football in all aspects. There have since been three chief executives, all from overseas. The first chief executive, Gordon McKie, joined the association after leaving the Scottish Rugby Union but quit after only six months. It was believed he left because of disputes with the association’s board. His successor, Mark Sutcliffe, who helped the association prepare Project Phoenix, spent six years at the helm until his contract expired in 2018. Sutcliffe’s assistant, Paul Woodland, took up the hot seat in 2019, but left in June last year and the position has since been vacant. A former senior government official is now helping the association in the administrative work with funding from the Home Affairs Bureau. The annual salary package for the post has also been decreasing, from over HK$4 million when it was first introduced in 2011 to over HK$2 million under the new five-year plan (2020-25) – which replaced Project Phoenix in 2015. The new chief executive is also likely to be a local candidate to ensure better communication with clubs and the football community.