Will Hong Kong host Liverpool and Leicester in the Premier League’s Asia Trophy on its own this summer?
Chinese fixture schedule leaves the English Premier League to consider switching matches to Guangzhou as Hong Kong offers to host both days
Hong Kong may have to stage the forthcoming Asia Trophy on its own after organisers struck problems in fixing a match day in China.
Headed by English Premier League (EPL) side Liverpool, with Leicester and Southampton the two other possible participants, the biennial event will be split into a two-day city competition for the first time since its inception in 2003 with the Premier League’s eager to further promote its brand in China.
However, the two matches in Shanghai, scheduled for July 22, may be called off with Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG already committed to their domestic fixture schedule.
“They have been trying to work out a solution for a long time but it seems now the chance of playing in Shanghai is very unlikely,” said a source close to the organisers. “Big spenders SIPG are aiming at the championship but they have to play host to six-time defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande in a crucial home match on the same day. It will be difficult for either side to make way for the Asia Trophy, as the result of the match may play a part in the championship.
Watch: preview of the last Premier League Asia Trophy held in Hong Kong
“Also, SIPG may be involved in the fifth round of the Chinese FA Cup in the same week if they go through, posing the organisers more difficulties.”
The source said the Premier League has since considered Guangzhou as a replacement site but it seems the city’s two Super League sides – Evergrande and R&F – are not interested.
“They need to resolve the problems as soon as possible as there are only three months left. Having both match dates in Hong Kong seems the next choice.”
Hong Kong will host the first round of matches on July 19 according to the current plan, featuring the three Premier League sides and the local 2017 league champions. The three English teams will then head for China for the second match date, which will also include Chinese representatives SIPG.
Hong Kong Football Association chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said they are ready to stage the Asia Trophy in Hong Kong.
“We know that the Premier League is still trying to organise something in China but as far as we know, nothing has been resolved,” he said. “Therefore all we know for certain is that there will be three teams from the EPL coming to play in Hong Kong on either July 19 or 22.
“Depending on what happens with their plans for China we may host both days in Hong Kong. I have been in constant dialogue with them and have made it clear we are willing and ready to host both match days if required.”
Sutcliffe said they were told all arrangements would be confirmed by the end of April.
Hong Kong hosted the Asia Trophy in 2011 and 2013, the latter proving a huge embarrassment when torrential rain saw managers of the teams and the world’s media slam the Hong Kong Stadium playing surface, with then Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio describing it as a “killer pitch”.