Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Wong Wai Case 黃威受傷事件


The Wong Wai Case

The time has come to defend both the HKFA and myself because there is so much confusion concerning the Wong Wai case.
Yet again I would like to reiterate that the player’s welfare remains our top priority. At the time of writing he remains in hospital and we wish him a quick and full recovery. He is a talented player and we all want to see him resume his career.

It is important for people to understand who is responsible for what happens when a player is injured playing for a Hong Kong representative team, so I will clarify the situation once and for all.
If a Football Association calls up a professional player to represent his country during one of the FIFA International Match Days then it is mandatory for the club to release the player. It is not mandatory for a club to release a player for training or friendly matches outside those days, but of course a club can choose to do so, on a voluntary basis.

Whenever a player is released by a club to the association, irrespective of whether it is mandatory or voluntary, the club is responsible for insuring the player against injury. It is not the responsibility of the football association.
The HKFA informed all of the clubs of this requirement at a meeting in October and gave them a copy of the relevant FIFA regulation.

It is also a mandatory requirement of the AFC CL and Hong Kong Premier League Club Licences that the club insures its players against injury.

The match in question was a friendly match that took place outside a FIFA match day and so the club released the player voluntarily. The HKFA never puts pressure on clubs to release players, it is the club’s choice. If a player gets injured the club is responsible for either claiming on its insurance policy (if it has one) or paying the medical expenses (if it does not). We have asked the club to provide us with a copy of its medical insurance certificate but as yet we haven’t received it. I honestly don’t know whether they are insured or not, time will tell. If they are not, it would explain why they are so keen to push the costs onto us.

Again for the avoidance of doubt the HKFA is in no way obliged to pay for any treatment. I can understand why people may find it strange that the Football Association is not responsible for insuring a player against injury or for paying for medical expenses, but that is the situation under the FIFA regulations and as a Member Association we have to abide by their rulings. The club cannot say that they were unaware of the situation for two reasons. Firstly we explicitly pointed out their responsibilities as recently as October and secondly they too have to abide by the FIFA regulations and it is incumbent on them to be aware of their obligations.

The situation regarding salary compensation is slightly different. If a professional player (male or female) is injured playing for a representative team in an “A” class international i.e. senior teams from both associations and the match takes place on a FIFA match day, then FIFA will provide financial assistance under the FIFA Club Protection Programme. This match was not covered by these provisions but again the club knew that because a copy of the FIFA Circular was given to all clubs in October.

Professional Football Clubs in Hong Kong are required by law to take out Employee Compensation Insurance to cover for when a player is injured and cannot work.

So for the case of Wong Wai, he was released by the club on a voluntary basis and the club fully understood (or at least should have) that if he got injured the HKFA was not obliged to pay for any medical expenses or to compensate the club.
So why did we offer to pay for Wong Wai’s medical expenses?

I took an ‘executive decision’ that the HKFA would pay for Wong Wai’s treatment for a number of reasons. Firstly a number of the HKFA coaches and our physiotherapist were involved in the decision to transfer Wong Wai from a public to a private hospital. This decision was taken in the interest of the patient. We wanted him to receive the best treatment which was something that may not have been covered by the club’s insurance. Having been party to this decision I felt that there was some moral obligation on us to pay at least some of the medical expenses. Secondly we did not want either Wong Wai or his family to worry about who was going to pay the bill. It was an emotional time for them and under the circumstances it seemed to me to be a secondary consideration. It is somewhat ironic that I may get into trouble with the Board for taking this decision and incurring expenditure that was not our responsibility. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Bearing in mind all of the above I think that the HKFA is justified in feeling disappointed with the media and public reaction. We were under no obligation to pay and yet we decided that that was the right thing to do. To be criticized for going over and above what we obliged to do and for helping out the player and the club seems a little harsh. I would have thought that the club should have shown some gratitude towards the HKFA, rather than stirring up controversy and making it out that we are the bad guys. When I met with them I asked for our discussions to be kept between the HKFA and the club. I did this not to keep matters ‘secret’ (which is what I have been accused of subsequently) but because I wanted to avoid the unnecessary media feeding frenzy. As a matter of principal I always prefer to sort things out amicably and confidentially. Unfortunately, the club decided that it could use the media and public to put further pressure on the HKFA and even went as far as to wrongly claim that I wanted to cap our liability in the Wong Wai case. This is a bit perverse considering we were not actually obliged to pay anything. It is also potentially counter-productive because we may decide not to be so generous in the future. It could be the other clubs and players that suffer as a result of the clubs actions. We are currently reviewing our position in relation to these matters and we will inform the clubs in due course as to what our policy will be in future cases.

I have also come in for some abusive personal criticism. I understand that this goes with the territory and that social media provides an ideal outlet for frustrations. I don’t mind criticism when it is justified but in this case I have been accused of visiting Wong Wai in hospital simply for PR reasons. People are entitled to interpret my actions as they wish. However I know my own personal motivations better than anyone. I simply wanted to personally reassure Wong Wai that the media comments were untrue and that the HKFA would honour its original commitment to pay his medical costs. I could not visit him any sooner because I was in Australia attending the AFC Conference on behalf of the association.

Wong Wai himself has been critical of my visit. This is disappointing in view of how much we have helped him and will continue to do so. I believe he is actually a decent person and I suspect that someone encouraged him to make that particular statement, so I am happy to give him the benefit of doubt on this occasion.

This has been a very unfortunate situation, not least for Wong Wai himself. With the benefit of hindsight I am sure there are things we could all have handled better. There are important lessons everyone and for me the most important one is to clearly define our policy in relation to the FIFA regulations and any additional arrangements we choose to have with the clubs. We have already started this process.



I will finish as I started in wishing Wong Wai well. I genuinely look forward to seeing him play once more for his club and for Hong Kong.

Mark Sutcliffe 15th January 2015

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黃威受傷事件

由於外界對黃威受傷一事存有太多的錯誤的訊息,現在是時候需要為香港足球總會(本會)和本人辯護。
本人希望藉此重申,球員福利依舊是本會的重中之重,在執筆之時,黃威仍然在醫院接受治療,本人衷心希望他能夠早日康復。他是一名具天賦的年青球員,我們都樂於看見他能夠早日重返賽場。

必須讓公眾明白一點,當球員披上香港代表隊的球衣時而不幸受傷,責任該由誰去承擔。因此,本人將會在本文詳細釐清。

倘若足球總會徵召相關球會的球員代表其國家參與國際足協比賽日的比賽,球會必須按足球總會的要求而放人,至於在非國際足協比賽日的訓練或友賽,球會並非必須讓球員離隊參與,球會可按其意願讓其球員參加。

每當球會應允足球總會的要求讓旗下球員參與代表隊賽事時,不論出於自願與否,球會都必須為球員受傷承擔責任,而非由足球總會負責。

本會在去年十月舉行的會議中已通知各球會有關規定,並附上相關國際足協條例的副本。
同時,亞洲足協和香港超級聯賽的球會牌照申請要求,亦訂明球會必須就球員受傷購買保險。

這場賽事的爭議點是,這是一場在非國際足協比賽日舉行的友誼賽,球會按其意願讓球員參賽。本會強調,重未向任何球會施加壓力要求放人,這是球會的決定。倘若球員不幸受傷,球會應向保險公司索償(如有購買)或承擔醫療費用(如沒有購買保險)。本會曾經向球會索取其醫療保單副本,但迄今仍未收到。坦白說,本人並不清楚該球會有否購買保險,這只能留待時間驗證。假若沒有購買的話,則可以解釋為何他們如此積極將醫療費用推給本會。

為免產生疑問,本會重申沒有職責承擔任何醫療費用,外界可能會覺得足球總會毋須為球員受傷購買保險或賠償醫療費用而感到匪夷所思,本人明白他們的心情;但這是國際足協條例的規定,作為屬會會員的我們必須恪守相關制度,球會不能說他們毫不知情,原因有二:首先,去年十月時本會已向球會明確指出他們需要肩負的責任,其次是他們必須遵從國際足協條例,有義務去清楚知道他們的職責所在。
至於薪酬賠償問題,處理手法則有少許差異,假若一名職業足球員(無論男子或女子)於國際足協國際賽期內參與國際“A”級賽事而受傷,例如雙方總會各自派遣代表隊出戰,國際足協將會按照國際足協球會保障計劃為當事人提供財政援助。是次賽事並不在該條例的保障範圍以內,而球會亦已於去年十月收到國際足協通報副本,因此應已明瞭相關條例。

香港職業球會必須根據法例購買勞工保險,以確保球員一旦受傷和無法工作能得到保障。
故此對於黃威受傷一事,黃威所屬球會自願讓其參賽,而球會亦充分明白(或最低限度了解)到若球員在比賽中受傷,本會毋須為他的醫療費用或球會損失承擔任何責任。

為甚麼我們會承擔黃威的醫療費用?
本人作出了一個「行政決定」,讓本會承擔黃威的醫療費用,主要有以下原因:首先,本會數名教練及物理治療師均有份參與將黃威由公立醫院轉去私立醫院的決定,這是出於病者的利益著想。縱使球會保險未必能夠全面涵蓋所有費用,我們也希望他能夠獲得最好的治療。站在道義上的立場,本人認為我們應該承擔至少部分醫療費用。其次,我們不希望黃威或其家屬憂慮誰會承擔醫療費用的問題,他們的情緒不穩是我的另一個考慮因素;然而,這或會令本人與董事局產生意見分歧的兩難局面,產生的費用並不是我們應該肩負的責任。不過,諺語有云:「船到橋頭自然直!」

基於上述所言,本人認為本會對最近傳媒和公眾之抨擊言論深感失望是合乎情理的,本會確實毋須負責去支付相關費用,但我們仍作出認為正確的決定。因此,對於那些抨擊我們應該負上責任去幫助球會和球員的言論似乎是過分嚴苛,本人以為球會就此事向本會表達謝意,而非挑起一些爭議來營造“本會是壞人”的形象。當本人與他們會面時,曾要求就討論內容保密。我作出此要求並非因為要將事件秘密處理(這個要求成了後來對本人的指責),而是為了避免掀起不必要的傳媒追訪。基於這個原則,本人傾向於以友善和保密的方法處理此事。可惜,球會決定藉著傳媒和公眾的力量來進一步向本會施加壓力,並錯誤引述本人將在黃威受傷事件上設定賠償上限。基於我們本應毋須為醫療費用負責,球會這樣的做法實在有點有違常理,也會令事情適得其反,因此本會或決定在將來不作出如此慷慨的決定。其他球會和球員的利益或會因單一球會的莽撞行動而受損。本會正就事件重新審視我們應該扮演的角色,並會在適當時候通知球會有關在將來處理同類事件的相關政策。
本人也遭受到辱罵性的人身攻擊,本人明白到這種事情在社交媒體上屢見不鮮,網絡是一個宣洩不滿的理想平台。本人樂於接受任何合理的批評,但卻不能容忍去醫院探訪黃威一事被形容為一種公關手段,當然人們可以按他們的想法來解釋本人的行為,但卻沒有人比我更清楚自己的個人意願。本人去慰問黃威,純粹因為想向他強調傳媒的報道並不準確,以及本會會遵守承諾,負責他的醫療費用。本人未能及早前赴醫院探望,是因為本人當時正代表本會出席在澳洲舉行的亞洲足協會議。

黃威對於本人的探訪予以批評,對於一直幫助和支持他的我們感到非常失望。本人深信他是一位有分寸的人,因此我懷疑他是受到鼓勵而作出此番言論。就這件事件上,本人樂於將「疑點利益」歸於黃威。
這是一件非常不幸的事件,並不單指在黃威本人身上。事後一想,本人認為應能找出更妥善的方法來處理。經此一事,令大家上了重要的一課,我們必須根據國際足協條例,清楚釐訂本會的相關政策,以及與球會間的附加安排,本會經已開始草擬這些方案。


就如本文的開首所言,本人由衷希望黃威能夠早日康復,再次目睹他披上球會和香港代表隊的戰衣,騁馳於球場上爭取榮譽!
二○一五年一月十五日  薛基輔 

7 comments:

  1. This is very black and white. Around the world, clubs are completely responsible for insuring players' medical. Some FAs of strong Footballing countries will cover some medical and have their own specialists, but FAs are not obligated to insure. It seems the HKFA went well above and beyond by upgrading Wong's treatment, though there may be financial repercussions.

    Is there a regulation in place for medical minimum coverages for club players, one that insures them wherever they are playing domestic or internationally (club and country)?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there, thanks for your comment.
    Yes, I agree that the HKFA went above and beyond its responsibilities in paying for Wong Wai's treatment (and moving him to a private hospital) when it was actually the club's responsibility (as they knew very well). That is why I was so disappointed with the club's attitude and comments of the player. Unnecessary negative media and public reaction was stirred up at a time when we need more positive support for football. I think it was because people did not know the facts, which as you say are black and white.
    I presented a report on this matter to our Board on Monday. The HKFA recognises the difficult financial situation faced by some of our clubs. We also recognise that we want to work with the clubs to develop our representative teams and that we would like them to release players for training and competitions at times when they don't have to. In view of this we are proposing a Collective Insurance policy that clubs and the HKFA buy into. This will enable us to share the risk. The details are being worked out but will include minimum levels of cover for the scheme. We will also set out as part of the licence criteria minimum levels that we will expect the clubs to provide, should they choose to opt out of the collective scheme. Player welfare is our priority.
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mark, when will our next FIFA international match be? Most other FA's have already announced their friendly plans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian, Per FIFA site, Guam at home on 28.Mar

      Delete
  4. Mark,

    Brian Eastick, the prime candidate for the national manager position in last time's worldwide recruitment exercise, is currently out of contract. Is there any chance that HKFA will consider offering him a permanent role within the FA?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, we already have a Head Coach and the HKFA is not currently seeking a replacement.
      (Sorry for the delay in response)

      Delete
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