Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau brings his regular round-up of all the very latest news, developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.
Hong Kong champions Eastern have turned from ‘princes’ to sudden ‘paupers’ as abrupt and acute financial woes have forced them to withdraw from the Asian Champions League before a ball has even been kicked. Eastern took over two decades to retain the Hong Kong league and become a potential Asian powerhouse; now all lofty ambitions of lining up against the finest in Asia have all but disappeared with monetary pressures and woes overshadowing all their previous season’s remarkable work.
Eastern built up a worldwide name and gained global exposure when their coach Chan Yuen Ting became the first female manager to win a top level mens’s league though Eastern will now simply be looking to gain enough financial sponsorship and backing to become financially viable in the upcoming Hong Kong premier league season.
Since July 1st, Eastern’s former main benefactor, Lai Tung Kwong, has literally pulled the monetary plug on the team and given the enormous costs of partaking in Asian wide competitions, Eastern have decided to bow out of all continental competition which is a huge blow to their loyal support and of course their squad. Great expectations and hopes of playing in the continent’s premier competition have given way to resounding frustration and disappointment and now Eastern will simply compete in the Hong Kong league.
The sudden financial jolt has already had deep repercussions with players who remain being warned of lower salaries while new signings have already been released due to unsustainable contracts; an example being Mikel Arruabarrena from La Liga team SD Eibar who has already been released though barely being in Hong Kong. The fall out will most likely see Kitchee taking up Eastern’s now vacant Champions league spot.
Whatever the true reasons behind this the sudden departure and subsequent financial issues, it shows how, in the Hong Kong game, the firm foundations to build up viable and long lasting sporting entities are indeed flimsy and sometimes non-existent. The main losers are the majority of Hong Kong sports fans, except maybe Kitchee’s who are no doubt totally ecstatic after being given a wide open door to the Asian champions league.
After a brief period of financial instability, a new sponsor for Eastern has been lined up and is a Hong Kong property developer based in mainland China. Details to be announced after a contract-signing ceremony.
With the new deal, there will be no suggested salary cut for players and the team budget is around HKD10 million. Issues related to AFC tournament(s) will be discussed with the HKFA in the bear future and the final decision will be made by the HKFA. (Thanks to Manni).
Hong Kong Football Club Return to the Top Tier
The Happy Valley based, Hong Kong Football Club, have returned to the top tier of Hong Kong football after several years absence. After much debate on the prospect of professionalism, HKFC will join teams like South China, Pegasus and Kitchee after accepting a place in the expanded Hong Kong Premier League for the 2016/17 season (subject to the HKFA). HKFC recently held trials for potential new players and will hold several practice games before they finalize their squad.
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