Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Hong Kong 2, Qatar 3



It would have been a brilliant comeback but sadly, it was not to be. What I would like to say first and foremost is that the fact that we are disappointed to lose a match like this shows just how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. Qatar won its last match 15-0, they are ranked in the top 100 and 57 places above Hong Kong. At the end they were hanging on and their Coach was pleading for the final whistle.

We all feel a bit flat today which is not surprising but looking at things objectively we should be pleased and proud of how well our team played and how they gave a fright to one of the better teams in Asia. We have made great progress recently and the fact that we could come back at the end speaks volumes about both the team spirit and the improved physicality of our players.
I don’t want to dwell on the referee’s performance because it is a difficult job and we all must accept that at times we take the rough with the smooth (some decisions undoubtedly went our way against China). I must say however that the decision to penalize our goalkeeper for delaying clearing the ball was a bit harsh. I have rarely seen this decision made and never without issuing a warning first. It was almost inevitable that it lead to the first goal. But let’s focus on the positives. 

It would be remiss of me not to mention the crowd and the support given by the Hong Kong fans. When I turned up at Mong Kok two hours before kickoff there was already a large crowd and a palpable buzz around the stadium. From start to finish the fans were magnificent and I know this gives a huge lift to the players. It’s a cliché but it is like having a 12th man on the pitch. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in football at the moment which is great and we at the HKFA must try to capitalize on this. I am sure the match against China in November will take this to a higher level altogether.

I think it is obvious to everyone, it certainly is to me, that the Hong Kong Representative Team is getting better. This potential was always there but the fact that it is now coming to the surface is really encouraging. What I’m more excited about however is that there is more to come. The changes we are introducing to the structure of football and the pathways for talented players will improve things in the future. Things will get even better when we have our own dedicated Football Training Centre and more sophisticated sports science support.

There is no doubt in my mind that Hong Kong football at all levels is on an upward trajectory. If we continue to build on this momentum the many football fans in Hong Kong will have many more great performances to cheer.

Mark Sutcliffe September 2015



9 comments:

  1. Mr. Chung, the commentator gave an inspirational speech in the last minute of yesterday's game on tv and everyone is talking about it.
    "The team gives its best and the fans have been shouting "We are Hong Kong" throughout the game. It's the beauty of football that puts different kinds of people all together. I really don't understand why we couldn't develop Hong Kong football on the right track. I have no comment on Project Phoenix, but I think there are still lots of room for improvement. Look at all the people on the stadium dedicating to support the team. How beautiful it is."

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    Replies
    1. Dear Felix,
      Thank you for your comment and support. I couldn't agree with you more that there is room for improvement (there always is). I have prepared another blog which should be posted on here soon that comments on Project Phoenix, what has been done, the changes it has led to and the bright future that it has been the catalyst for. Please see that and I would appreciate your views on that too. Change doesn't happen overnight and especially in a place like Hong Kong. I do believe that we are on the right track now and I am delighted that we are giving the many passionate fans something to cheer about. There are some very dedicated and passionate people involved in football in Hong Kong and by working together we can make a difference. When I first came here and for about the first 18 months there was a very cynical attitude towards the HKFA, myself and football generally. People would stop me in the street and say "Football will never change" or "You're wasting your time", or "Project Phoenix is a waste of money, it's useless" etc etc. I would simply reply, "OK, you are entitled to your opinion but I don't agree with you, let's just see shall we?". I don't get so many of those negative comments any more and I think people are finally starting to believe. I hope so anyway. One thing is for sure, my colleagues and I will keep on trying simply because we love football and we understand the power it has to bring pleasure and purpose to people.
      Regards,
      Mark

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  2. Thanks Mr. Sutcliffe,

    My ideas are as follows:

    1. Add a football themed hotel, complete with bar and restaurants into the stadium as in Twickenham Stadium and Shanghai Stadium. It could be used for the away team personnel. They are talking already about adding a hotel on the Kai Tak site which I think can be embedded into the stadium to save space. As you know space is a very scarce resource here.

    2. Add a Hong Kong football museum and Hall of Fame. A proper museum where Hong Kong football's glorious past will be celebrated. Photos, videos, shirts, gloves, boots, footballs, trophies and newspaper cuttings will be on display. Legendary players will be listed in the Hall of Fame, like the recently deceased Wu Kwok-Hung and many before him.

    3. Interactive game centre. Visitors can shoot and see how fast their shots are, play video games and other such.

    4. International football merchandizes. If you have been to Singapore Changi Airport then I think you will have seen the official FIFA store. It will be something like this plus merchandizes from the local and international clubs.

    5. Other sports equipment shops and fitness centres. Fitness centres are all over the city now so why not inside the new stadium?

    I hope this is useful to you. As I said, there is no reason why the new stadium will become a ghost town when there is nothing on.

    Allan Ng

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  3. Dear Allan,
    Thank you for sharing your ideas, all of which I support. I promise I will include them in my discussions with the consultants.
    Best wishes,
    Mark

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  4. Dear Mr. Sutcliffe,

    Thank you for your response.

    There seems to be a good number of people who are against staging the Hong Kong -
    China match in Hong Kong Stadium. They have many concerns including the turf condition, atmosphere, width of pitch, ticketing, access...etc, even greed of the HKFA. I don't have a problem with HKFA trying to make more money from the match as long as it is invested back into local football.

    Maybe HKFA can make a stronger case for it if it can come out and say that a percentage of the match's gate receipts will go towards the Hong Kong team players prize money. For example: 5% of all gate receipts for a loss, 10% for a draw and 15% for a win. That way the people cannot argue that it is no good for the players if the match is staged at HK stadium.

    $130 X 38,000 tickets is nearly $5million. 5% is $250,000 for a loss; $500,000 for a draw and $750,000 for a win. I think this prize money structure is very reasonable. HKFA can still make a healthy profit after this payout and the other costs.

    Regards,

    Allan

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  5. Hi Allan,
    To be honest I have heard very little feedback from fans about where they want the match to be played so it is interesting what you say. Many of the concerns can be addressed. For example the turf condition should be fine because a new pitch has just been laid at vast expense and to international specifications. We can narrow the pitch (like we did against Uzbekistan). A full house at HKS would create just as good an atmosphere as Mong Kok, if not better. To be honest my main reason for wanting the game there is so that as many fans as possible get a chance to watch the match live. Playing it at Mong Kok would leave many people disappointed.
    The point about HKFA greed is an interesting one but not one that I agree with. Firstly it is a rather cynical view that that is the reason we would want the game at the HKS. Secondly, I don't think many people realise that when we play matches at Mong Kok we lose money because of the economies of scale. So what's wrong with trying to at least breakeven or make a little bit of money by playing at HKS. We are a non profit making Limited Company so any surplus we generate gets invested back into football. Our accounts are a matter of public record. We have no reserves to fall back on and every year we manage to scrape by on a breakeven budget. Like many organisations cash flow is always a headache. It is true that we get more money now from the Government and the Jockey Club but every dollar is allocated to specific programmes and is accounted for. I see nothing wrong when we have an opportunity to make some money in doing so and therefore giving ourselves a small financial cushion, reduce the cash flow burden and provide funds to invest in football. It is part of my job to ensure the economic viability of the HKFA. It would be remiss of me not to consider the financial position of the organisation. Of course in doing so we must make sure that ticket prices are affordable, which I believe they are.
    Your maths is along the right lines but we could never sell 38,000 tickets even in a full house because we are obliged to give a couple of thousand complimentary tickets to our stakeholders, sponsors, members etc. Also all of the hospitality suites and seats in front have already been pre sold by the stadium. For security reasons the Government won't allow us to sell all tickets, particularly if there is to be segregation of fans. I think we would have a maximum of circa 30,000 to sell, some of which will be at the concessionary rate. So let's say 30,000 at an average of HK$100 = HK$3m. Of this we have to give 20% back to the stadium in levy plus we have to pay more for use of the giant screen, 25% of any advertising revenue, etc etc. There are also a lot of match day expenses to cover such as referees, ground staff, transport for teams, hotel costs etc etc. Therefore the potential for surplus is considerably reduced.
    In terms of the players money, we already have in place agreed rates. Each player receives an allowance every time they train with the team, they get a selection fee if they are in the squad and they get a further amount if they play. We have a bonus scheme which is calculated on a basis of xHK$ per FIFA ranking point gained. It is therefore incentivised so they get more for better results against better teams. On top of that additional bonuses are given by Directors and Heads of Delegation. In actual fact the figures received by players for the match against China are not that different to the ones you suggest.
    We still have to wait to find out where the match will be played. At the end of the day, it's not our decision but I can assure you that the decision to request the HKS was taken for many reasons.
    Regards
    Mark

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  6. Hi Mark,

    IMO, the atmosphere of MKS is as good as HKS when the audience of MKS = HKS / 3. So, if HKFA expects that only around 10,000 audiences will come, I suggest higher priority should be given to MKS. The full housed MKS can provide similar advantage to our home team as around 20,000 audiences in HKS. It is not scientific at all, but it is my feeling after watching several half full and full house matches HKS in 2009-10 and comparing it with full house MKS in 2013 (vs Vietnam) and the 3 WCQ matches in this year.

    There is also psychological impact to the public. The local football has inferior image compared with European football, especially the EPL. If it is too easy to purchase the tickets or obtain the free tickets, no one will treasure it at all. The most important factor for Hong Kong NT as a hot topic in the city in these few months was that the tickets were sold out early, prior to the poster of CFA.

    Regards,
    mdhm

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  7. Dear mdhm,
    You make some good and interesting points about the match venue. Actually it still hasn't been decided where the match will be played so there is still time to consider all options and the relative merits of various venues. My gut feeling is that we would sell more than 20,000 tickets if the match was played at the HKS but I certainly take your point about the perceived value.
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
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