Thursday, 16 January 2014

Now more than ever, Football Stakeholders need to work together 從今開始 足球相關人士必須團結一致

Now more than ever, Football Stakeholders need to work together

As you can imagine, since my return from the UK most of my time has been taken up dealing with the well-publicised match-fixing allegations. I am not going to talk about the cases that are currently being investigated by the ICAC because it is an on-going situation. Suffice to say we have worked closely with the ICAC, not just in relation to the current allegations but on an on-going basis. There is a regular dialogue and sharing of information. This is always on a strict confidential basis. I applaud their diligence and am grateful for their determination to prevent corruption in all its forms.

It is important to note that in relation to these latest allegations, although arrests have been made, no-one has been found guilty of an offence. So my comments below are general remarks and do not relate to any individuals or clubs. However the fact that this has happened disappoints and frustrates me on many levels.

Firstly on a personal level, I detest cheats. Sport has been a constant and dominating force throughout my life. I have been a player, a coach, a manager and more recently an administrator. The majority of the positive things that have happened to me are a direct result of sport whether it is personal achievement, friendships, cultural understanding or the shear pleasure of competition. If you play sport for its intrinsic value you learn to win with humility and to lose graciously. You accept pleasure, pain, anger, elation, humiliation, respect and just about every other human emotion. Therefore I find it totally abominable that some people seek to abuse the purity of competition for personal greed and gain. They destroy the very essence of sport. 

That is why I am glad that this investigation is taking place. It is time to do whatever we can to clean up our sport. The HKFA will cooperate fully with the investigation and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to anyone found guilty. Our resolve to sort this out should not be doubted.

Secondly I am disappointed that some people are using this unfortunate incident to denigrate Project Phoenix. The undeniable fact is that match-fixing is a global sports issue. It is not restricted to football or Hong Kong. There are cheats in every sport and there have been since sport was first created. Cricket, cycling, tennis even snooker to name a few have all had problems recently. It is particularly prevalent and high profile in football because it is a global sport that attracts huge betting and media interest. There have been allegations of match-manipulation investigated in over 60 countries in the last two years. So why should Hong Kong be any different? Since I started work here I have been consistent in saying that corruption is a threat and that there are certain characteristics of the local game that make it more susceptible. It is a fact that players, coaches, referees and club officials are paid relatively badly compared to other countries and professions. Furthermore we are in a part of Asia where this kind of corruption is rife. Betting on local football is not legal within our own territory and is therefore difficult to monitor.

So no-one should be surprised that these allegations have come to light, (indeed it has happened here before) but to link it to the Government funded project to transform football and to say that that initiative is not working, is both unjust and missing the point.

Project Phoenix is about improving the whole sport including the governance, administration, partnerships, activities and programmes, structures, systems, facilities etc. It is a roots and branches transformation process. Professional football is only one component of the plan. Whilst the Clubs are Members of the Association, they are independent entities and most of what they do currently falls outside the remit of the HKFA.

If anything, these allegations reinforce the need for Project Phoenix. The whole point of the project is to enhance the quality of football being played in Hong Kong through the systematic development of players. Better quality on the pitch should over time make the local game a product that people will want to watch and this will bring back the crowds and commercial income streams. As the money in the sport increases people should be less vulnerable to corruption.

The other important part of Project Phoenix that this incident strengthens the need for, is of course the establishment of a new Premier League. As I have previously stated, the rationale for this initiative is to ‘professionalise’ the top tier of football in Hong Kong. It is to be based on a Licence system and as part of the Licence application process, clubs will need to explain their ownership, governance and management arrangements. They will also have to demonstrate financial transparency and submit audited accounts.

During the establishment of the new League, the HKFA will continue to work with the ICAC and we will be educating players, coaches, referees and officials on match-fixing, corruption, doping and discrimination. We will implement a Fraud Prevention system because we want the league to be as ethically sound as possible because that is the only way that fans and sponsors will want to get involved. We will also introduce a Fraud Detection system to monitor our matches and flag up any suspicious activity.


I understand why some people may want to distance themselves from Hong Kong football right now but I would ask them to bear in mind that this is a global, not a Hong Kong issue and is restricted to a few corrupt individuals over which the HKFA currently has little influence. I would also remind them that we are being proactive in sorting out the problems. Project Phoenix is instrumental in addressing the difficulties and can be the catalyst for a new era. Rather than hiding in the shadows sniping at the HKFA and specifically Project Phoenix, we need all of the football stakeholders in Hong Kong to stand shoulder to shoulder, to maintain the faith in the long term future of football in Hong Kong and to work together to uphold the integrity of the sport.
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從今開始   足球相關人士必須團結一致


自從英國回來後,你可以想像我就一直忙於處理有關賽場上涉嫌非法操控賽事的事件,由於案件正在進入調查階段,因此我未能談及關於香港廉政公署的調查內容,只能透露我們與香港廉政公署一直保持緊密合作,並非純粹就目前指控方面的交流,而是雙方過去一直保持良好的合作關係,相互交流信息,並會堅守對有關資訊採取保密原則, 本人對於廉署堅決執行打擊貪污的工作予以高度讚揚和心存感激。

對於最近有關的指控,縱使有個別人士被捕,但暫時沒有一人被定罪,因此本人以下的見解並非針對任何人士或球會,但事實上我已遭受到不同程度的打擊及感到失望。

首先在個人而言,我痛恨欺騙的行為。運動過去是我人生中一股永恆不變的重要力量,我曾經是一名運動員、一位教練、一名經理甚至成為一位現任的行政人員,大部分在我身上所發生的事情都是正面的,無論是個人成就、友誼、文化知識或比賽所帶來的歡愉,都是源自於運動所帶來的結果。倘若你參與運動並掌握它的真實價值時,你便能夠從中學懂如何謙遜地取得勝利以及如何不失風度地輸掉比賽,你能夠接受喜悅、痛楚、憤怒、 興高采烈、羞辱、尊敬以及任何人類情感。因此,本人非常厭惡某些人以一己之欲或自我利益,試圖褻瀆賽事的純潔,以摧毀運動的核心價值。

這正是本人對於今次採取調查行動欣慰的原因,這時機正好讓我們保持運動上的廉潔,香港足球總會將會對調查工作作出全面配合並對任何犯罪人士採取零容忍的態度,堅決肅清貪污行為是毋庸置疑的。

其次,本人對於某些人士將今次不幸事件以詆毀「鳳凰計劃」而深表失望,毫無疑問非法操控賽事屬於全球運動必須應對的事件,並非局限於香港足球運動。自從運動的出現,任何類型的賽事都會有詐騙情況發生,木球、單車、網球以至桌球比賽的作弊行為亦時有聽聞,在足球賽事上特別受到關注的原因,全因它屬於風行全球的運動,當中吸引龐大的賭注及傳媒興趣,在過去兩年中全球超過六十個國家都出現非法操控賽事的調查,那麼為何香港屬於異類?自從我在這裡任職後,一直反覆強調貪污行為是重大危害 ,容易令部分本土賽事變得較為敏感,事實上,相對其他國家或專業球隊而言,香港球員、教練、裁判員以及球會職員待遇條件較低;再者,我們屬於亞洲地區的一部分,而這類貪污行為亦相對普遍。眾所周知,在香港本土範圍內賭博本地足球賽事屬於非法行為,導致變得難以監管。

因此,這類涉嫌指控的事件曝光是毋須驚訝的(事實上同類事件亦曾經出現),但將它與香港特區政府資助下的改革本地足球計劃聯繫在一起,認為相關措施不切實際,完全屬於無的放矢及欠缺公允的指控。

「鳳凰計劃」是改善足球運動事業的綜合項目,包括管治、行政、合作模式、活動及計劃、架構、系統和設施等,這是一項全面改革的過程,專業足球在計劃中僅是其中一個單元,當球會成為了本會的屬會會員而變成了獨立的企業後,目前大部分球會所做的事情已經超越香港足球總會的管轄範圍外。

總而之,有關指控增強了「鳳凰計劃」的需要。計劃中的整個重心是透過系統化培育球員,以提高香港足球賽事的水平。賽事質素經過年月的改進變得愈來愈高,增加了賽事的觀賞性,因而吸引了更多球迷入場,商業贊助亦會增多。隨著透過比賽的收入不斷增加,球場人士自然減少受賄的意欲。

「鳳凰計劃」的另一個重要部分是今次事件提高了成立香港職業聯賽的需要性。如本人早前所述,這項措施方案的理念是將香港足球賽事的最高級別定向為「專業化」,並以牌照制度為依歸,在牌照申請的過程中,球會必須對其擁有、管治和管理上的安排等作出解釋,同時亦能展示球會的財政透明度及需要呈交已審核的會計帳目。

在新聯賽成立期間,香港足球總會將與香港廉政公署繼續合作,教育球員、教練、裁判員及其他相關人士有關非法操控賽事、貪污、濫用藥物及歧視行為的嚴重性。此外,本會將會實施防止舞弊機制,因為我們希望新聯賽變得更加廉潔,因為這是吸引球迷及贊助商的唯一途徑。本會同時亦會引入偵測舞弊機制,以監管所有賽事及舉報任何涉嫌的活動。

本人明白部分人士捨棄及遠離香港足球的原因,但本人希望他們牢記一點,這是一項全球性而非單一性的香港事例,並局限於為數不多的受賄人士,因此香港足球總會所能改變的能力有限。本人亦希望他們明白我們必須主動解決當前問題,「鳳凰計劃」是解決香港足球事業困局的唯一良方並能成為開創新紀元的催化劑。與其隱藏於背後狙擊本會以及「鳳凰計劃」,我們更需要全港與足球相關的人士攜手並肩,一起維繫對香港足球長遠未來的信心,並萬眾一心維護運動的正直廉潔。

3 comments:

  1. Dear Mark,
    it is not a surprised that Hong Kong players involved match-fixing allegations. Since having a HK League TV broadcast, more betting companies opened HK league live-betting and live-score. I made a bet on HK vs UAE. I bet UAE coz I don't think HK have a chance to get 1 point, and I won my bet. Sorry at that moment, I wasn't in HK. Even I was at HK, nobody can catch me as long as I keep it secret. What we worry is, when betting on local football become legal, will there more match-fixing?
    As I have mentioned above, nobody can stop nor catch me on betting local football. However, allow it could be good to local football. More people would attend the games coz they made a bet. Use the profit on local football betting to increase players salary and facilities. Local football betting must be 2x1 or 3x1 formula, one/two of them must be non-HK football match to prevent match-fixing.

    For me, the most shocking match-fixing is World Cup (Asia) Indonesia 0-10 Bahrain. Bahrain needs 10 goals margin and Qatar must not get a point from Iran, to promote to next group stage. Although they made it, Qatar equalized the match in the last minute, Bahrain out. Ironically nobody were punished.

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  2. Dear dragoon17c,
    I have been saying for a while that our players, coaches and officials are vulnerable to corruption. It is partly because they are paid poorly and secondly because it is possible to bet on our matches on hundreds of legal betting sites all over the world. I am sure there are at least as many illegal bookmakers too.
    There is a strong argument for legalising betting on Hong Kong football in Hong Kong because people will do it anyway and at least if it is regulated, it is possible to monitor betting patterns and spot potential irregularities. Introducing betting in Hong Kong and creating a levy to establish a fund to help prevent corruption and to enhance football development makes sense to me, although I know that there would be a lot of opposition.
    The point you make about betting on the World Cup qualifiers simply reinforces the fact that this is a world-wide issue and not a Hong Kong issue. All of the football authorities and the national and international law inforcement agencies must work together if this problem is to be tackled effectively.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Regards
    Mark

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