After six years as CEO of the HKFA it’s time for me to say ‘goodbye’. My first contract was concluded in November 2014 a month after Project Phoenix had been completed. But by then we were in a critical phase of preparing the next Strategic Plan and applying for a new round of funding. So I was offered and agreed to take a new 3 year contract up until March 2018. To be honest I never intended to stay here this long, my logic in doing so was to be in a position to consolidate the improvements we were able to make as a result of the new funding and to oversee the construction of the new Football Training Centre (FTC), the last piece of the Project Phoenix ‘jigsaw’. I was committed to leaving in March 2018 but unfortunately there were inevitable delays in the FTC and I agreed yet another contract to stay on until it was complete. My original intention was to be here three years maximum. If you remember I was ‘head-hunted’ to take over an organization in crisis. I won’t elaborate but Project Phoenix had got off to a disastrous start and some serious damage limitation was required to get back on an even keel and restore the confidence of stakeholders.
The FTC is now finished and so as far as I am concerned my job here is done. The FTC is fundamental to the long term development of football in Hong Kong. When I came here I found FTC files dating back several decades. I can understand now why nothing happened before I came here. This has been one of the most difficult projects I have ever been involved with and I am proud that it has finally come to fruition.
So what recent media articles have failed to point out is that I have already been here twice as long as I intended and that I have had my contract renewed twice. They also don’t know that I have some personal reasons for needing to go back to the UK. The media like to ‘sensationalise’ issues but the fact is that 6 years is a long time to be away from family and friends and now is a good time for me to go.
I have enjoyed my time here and I believe that I leave football in Hong Kong in a much better place than I found it. In my next blog I will summarise the differences as an ‘end of school’ report. It’s not the ‘impossible’ job that some people say it is but it’s certainly challenging and often made harder than it should be.
It’s sad that some people are focusing on what I am paid rather than what has been achieved. I took what was offered to me on day one without negotiation and I did not seek an increase when my contract was renewed twice. I have never claimed expenses and I have paid my own flights, accommodation etc whenever I have supported Hong Kong teams in places such as Maldives, Bhutan, Qatar, Malaysia, Guam etc etc. In my opinion what people should be focusing on is the more than half a billion dollars (HK$500m+) of extra investment (such as Government funding, HKJC partnership and commercial sponsorship) I have personally brought into Hong Kong football and the things we have been able to do with that money. And make no mistake about it, a lot has been achieved. Of course the successes we have brought about are not just down to me. I need to thank many people including my colleagues here at the HKFA, our Chairman and Board Members as well as many stakeholders including the Government and the HK Jockey Club.
So when I get on that plane home on 1st October I will have some mixed emotion. There will be some sadness in leaving but more so I will be looking forward to the next chapter in my life. It has been a wonderful and overwhelmingly positive experience. I have made some great friends and had some incredible times. I have tried my best every day to make Hong Kong football better. I will leave other people to judge whether that is the case, but thanks to everyone for giving me this opportunity and good luck in the future.