Why it’s not a good idea to ‘outsource’ the management of a football club
Until I came to Hong Kong, I was not familiar with the concept of ‘outsourcing’ the management of a football club. By outsourcing I mean delegating the responsibility for all football matters to a third party, a so-called ‘sponsor’. In reality these third party organisations are not ‘sponsors’ in the true sense of the word. A sponsor is a partner that provides funds in return for marketing rights and benefits. What we are dealing with here are individuals or companies that provide money to the ‘parent’ club in return for the opportunity to actually operate and run the football club.
If a Club owner or Sports Association wants to be involved in football they should want to take responsibility for recruiting players and coaches and for controlling what happens on the pitch. Why be involved if you have no interest in these issues? The Clubs themselves are the ‘Members’ of the Hong Kong FA and have the ultimate responsibility for every aspect of the club and its teams. There is nothing in our Rules at the moment to preclude an ‘outsourcing arrangement’ but if a Club intends to do so, there are some pitfalls to avoid:
- The Club should know who it is outsourcing to – it should do due diligence on the individual or organization and understand exactly who they are dealing with and the motivations of the organization for getting involved. Dare I say it, they should be particularly careful if the people come from outside Hong Kong or if the ‘sponsor’ enters into similar agreements with yet another individual or organization which renders the club even further removed from the day to day operation of the club. It is the clubs’ responsibility to know these things.
- The club should make sure that they are dealing with a bone fide organization and not simply a ‘shell’ company.
- The Club should have a bone fide contract with the individual or organization that clearly sets out the different roles and responsibilities and confirms that the Club has the ultimate responsibility. The contract should not contain provisions that are prohibited under HKFA, AFC or FIFA Regulations e.g. conveying third party rights on transfers to the ‘sponsor’.
- The contract should be properly executed and be specific about; the rights and benefits, where the money is coming from and what it is being used for.
- The Club should not delegate the recruitment of players or coaches to the ‘sponsor’ or the team selection. At all times the club should be able to control the behaviour of the players both on and off the pitch. This is a fundamental requirement and the minimum expectation of fans, media and in fact everyone involved in football.
- If the sponsor shows any suspicious behaviour such as money laundering, late payment of players, match-fixing etc, the Club has an obligation to report such matters to the appropriate authorities. It should not simply turn a blind eye to these activities.
- The Club should have contingency plans in case the ‘sponsor’ disappears mid-season or in case the money that has been promised fails to materialize. It is the club that has an obligation to the HKFA to be able to demonstrate that it can meet its liabilities including paying the players, not the ‘sponsor’.
- The club should maintain timely and accurate management accounts at all times and records of the due diligence.
The criteria for the new Premier League include provisions that require transparency in governance and management. Under the new League the potential for Clubs to get into difficulty through outsourcing arrangements should be substantially reduced.
- 球會應該了解「外判者」的底蘊 — 球會應該慎重調查其個人的身份或公司背景，了解他們跟誰人往來，以及了解他們的參與動機。恕我直言，倘若來自非香港人士或「贊助商」與其他個別人士或公司達成共識而進一步將球會的日常管理權「判上判」的話，球會必須加以提防和有責任了解事情的來龍去脈。