Happy Valley will no longer compete in the Hong Kong Premier League after pulling out of the 2021-22 season. “After careful consideration, the management of the association has decided not to compete for the Hong Kong Premier League in 2021-22,” the club said in an announcement on social media on Thursday. “We regret that we have not been able to continue our efforts at the top level, but we would like to thank those who have helped so much over the past two seasons and the fans who have come to support Happy Valley. Thank you, guys.” Some of their players have already begun to move on and captain Luciano Silva has signed for KC Southern since the announcement. Valley finished bottom of the Hong Kong Premier League’s postseason Relegation Group last season, though relegation was cancelled because of the pandemic and they would have stayed in the top flight. There had been speculation whether they would compete in the coming campaign as they had already paid the HK$50,000 registration fee for next season, it emerged last month. Now there are seven teams in the HKPL. Happy Valley ‘relegated’ as Hong Kong Premier League season ends Happy Valley’s director of football Poon Man-tik said: “It was a difficult decision with the club wanting to continue but the financial realities of the pandemic proved too problematic. “There was a three-year plan in place when we came up in 2019, but what happened in the last two years made that no longer sustainable.” While the club has struggled financially, convenor Chen Zhishi has said the players will be paid their outstanding salaries, totalling around HK$3 million. In an incident-packed season, Valley reached the Sapling Cup final by default and were also embroiled in a sexism controversy. Head coach Pau Ka-yiu and defender Lam Hin-ting were both suspended by the HKFA over their comments toward female referee Gigi Law Bik-chi regarding a defeat to TSW Pegasus in March. Valley were earlier kicked out of the Sapling Cup ahead of their semi-final against Lee Man after failing to pay an insurance payment. Once they met the overdue payment, Lee Man refused to play the rearranged semi-final, with Valley progressing to the final which they lost to Eastern. Guangzhou side R&F pull out of Hong Kong ‘with immediate effect’ Ahead of the 2020-21 season, Guangzhou-based Hong Kong Premier League side R&F pulled out of the league, which followed Rangers, Tai Po and Yuen Long all taking the opportunity to leave the 2019-20 season. Only Rangers returned for the top flight last season with Yuen Long and former champions Tai Po choosing to stay in the First Division. The Happy Valley Athletics Association will meet to decide if the team will compete in the First Division next season.