We need a joined-up strategy to build on the popularity of Hong Kong
It’s official, the Barclays English Premier League will be bringing the Barclays Asia Trophy 2013 to Hong Kong in July. This event happens every two years and usually rotates around various cities in Asia and yet it was held here in 2011. Similarly, teams from mainland China, Thailand and Korea will be here for the Chinese New Year Tournament. I am regularly contacted by football agents looking to bring Club and National Teams from literally all over the world to play in Hong Kong. Mostly it is impossible to accommodate these requests because of fixture congestion, availability of facilities etc. Furthermore, Hong Kong recently played host to teams from Australia, Chinese Taipei, North Korea and Guam in the EAFF Tournament. We are often asked to apply to host various AFC competitions. All of this interest, despite our lowly FIFA Ranking.
People want to come to Hong Kong. Of course, their motivations vary widely; some because of the geography, some the commerce, some the language, some the culture, some the climate, some the security, some the ‘gateway’ to other lucrative markets and some for specific reasons such as the Rugby 7s or the BAT! It doesn’t matter why they want to come – the point is that they just do. When people come to Hong Kong they spend money, it boosts the economy and creates multipliers that trickle down into the community. Sport can be the catalyst for this upsurge in economic activity and should be part of a cohesive strategy.
Hong Kong has great infrastructure for visitors, the transportation, communications and accommodation are all first class. It goes without saying therefore that the sports infrastructure needs to reflect that quality. The Hong Kong Stadium is certainly iconic and creates a great atmosphere when full, but it is ageing and lacks the amenities that top class sports people and entertainers require.
The plans to replace it with a new larger stadium at Kai Tak are long overdue and the HKFA backs the proposals 100%. If Hong Kong is going to continue to attract top class sporting events and not lose ground to rival destinations such as Singapore (their new Sports Hub is under construction), this development needs to gather pace. Further investment is also needed in the other sports facilities in Hong Kong so that larger events can be catered for as well.
One of the reasons why sports events like to come to Hong Kong is the enthusiasm and passion of the spectators. The local fans of Hong Kong sport deserve better facilities too. It is them that make the place attractive in the first place. I urge people to continue to support sports events and I look forward to seeing as many people as possible at our 1st Division matches, Cup competitions, the Chinese New Year Tournament, our home match against Vietnam in March and of course the BAT in July.