Major FA changes herald the revitalisation of Hong Kong football

There was a time when Hong Kong used to be the envy of Asian football. The territory hosted the first Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in 1956 with its team finishing a creditable third. This was followed with a fourth place in 1964 and, from the 1950s to the 1980s, the Hong Kong team was one of the highest ranked teams in Asia. Domestic attendances averaged between 15,000-20,000 spectators and then, like much of neighbouring South East Asia, came the decline.

"By the early 1990s, interest in local football in Hong Kong had dwindled. There came a significant drop in the number of spectators at matches. This had a knock-on effect in terms of money coming into the sport and the amount that could be paid to entice quality players into the game. And so the vicious cycle was created: lower attendance equalled less money in the game leading to poor quality football, leading to even lower attendance," wrote Daniel Pordes in his excellent article, Putting the bounce back in football, in the China Daily.

The Hong Kong Football Association bore much of the responsibility for failing to address the problems that erupted including allegations of illegal gambling and corruption "as club owners oversaw multiple teams", competition from televised football matches from Europe and the corresponding decline in salaries and status of football players.

Surprisingly it took the HKFA almost two decades before attempting to revitalise the game, as it did in the summer of 2009, with its Project Phoenix.

With the support of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, the FA selected an outside consultant, Scot Wilson Ltd, as Change Agent, in November 2010. Their resulting report called for greater transparency of the HKFA's hierarchy, an expansion of the FA, and for a professional league.

In April 2011 all 84 representatives from the FA's 45 clubs voted yes to constitutional changes and the government agreed to provide funds for appropriate senior management.

"A new Hong Kong team coach, a new CEO and a senior director in charge of finance are currently being sought with the positions expected to be filled by September. Three 'independent', or non-affiliated, directors will be invited onto to the board for the first time and membership in the association will now be open to interested parties with something to offer the game," Pordes details.

Along with setting up an independent self-governing Premier League system for the 2012-13 season, the project also suggests ultimately sending a Hong Kong team into China's Super League.

In the meantime, there's financial support for three district-based clubs (Wofoo Tai Po, Tuen Mun and newly promoted Sham Shui Po), redevelopment of the Mongkok Stadium, a new training academy in Tseung Kwan O ... and international investors are interested.

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