Thursday, 12 December 2013

Project Phoenix Progress Report 「鳳凰計劃」成效報告

Project Phoenix Progress Report

There has been some debate recently on various media about the progress of Project Phoenix and whether or not it is being successful in bringing about the transformation of football in Hong Kong. Some of this debate has been objective and informed, some has been mere opinion and speculation and some has been plain wrong. I am perhaps uniquely qualified to comment on Project Phoenix because I led the consultant team that wrote the report and now I am responsible for its implementation. I have lived and breathed Project Phoenix for the last few years and my honest appraisal of it is set out below.

Was Project Phoenix the right Strategy for Football in Hong Kong and is it still relevant?
Having been ‘inside’ the organization for a while now and having seen football in Hong Kong in some detail, I am convinced that if I was to write the Project Phoenix report again with the benefit of hindsight, it would contain exactly the same narrative and recommendations. I hope I am not being immodest when I say that I think it is an excellent blueprint for change. It identifies all of the problem areas and sets out the actions required to overcome them.

There are only a few things I would change if I could re-write the document. On reflection, some of the targets were a bit optimistic. It is not that they are unattainable; it is just that it might take longer to achieve them. Most people would agree that nothing happens quickly in Hong Kong and that is especially true in a sport like football that is fragmented and where there are so many vested interests. A few people are using the fact that some targets have been missed to invalidate the entire strategy. That is a ridiculous and naïve view. In some cases these are the very same people that are deliberately slowing down the process of change because it is their interest to do so (or so they think).

The other thing I would amend in hindsight is the budget. Again the report was too optimistic about how quickly commercial interest would be generated. Additional revenue is proving elusive and that remains one of the key challenges.

In my opinion, the key issues and strategic recommendations of Project Phoenix remain valid, relevant and important.

What Progress has be made?
Firstly, we must acknowledge that Project Phoenix got off to a stuttering start for a number of reasons including the early departure of the first CEO and Head Coach. That is history now and all we can do is try and make up the ground that was lost in the early days. That won’t be easy considering the fact that it is only a three-year funding programme. Nevertheless, the slow start is a material fact that should be taken into account when reviewing progress. It’s like going one nil down in the first 15 minutes of a match – it’s a blow but not a fatal one.

Project Phoenix was sub-titled ‘Develop- Deliver’ because it was recognized that before it could transform football by ‘delivering’ new activities and programmes, the HKFA had to transform and ‘develop’ itself. Therefore many of the 33 recommendations were focused on the transformation of the HKFA in terms of governance, management and operation. By their very nature these changes are ‘internal’ to the organisation and not immediately visible to the general public.

Organisational change is time-consuming and resource intensive however, and the HKFA has been working very hard on developing itself into a well-run Governing Body of Sport. I would like to share with you some of the things we have been doing which are ‘behind the scenes’.

  • New Constitution and Board: A new set of constitutional documents were agreed at the outset and more independent Directors are now in place.
  • Strong Executive (creation and filling of 24 new positions): Project Phoenix identified that the HKFA was under-staffed particularly in technical and operational positions. The organisation has recruited, inducted and now manages 24 new positions funded through Project Phoenix including some critical management positions such as Financial Controller, HR Manager, Head of Corporate Governance, Head of Marketing and Communications. All of these positions are vital in an organization of the scale and complexity of the HKFA.
  • Holistic Corporate Governance Review completed: In any organisation there are literally hundreds of policies, procedures, working practices etc covering financial management, HR, marketing, procurement and so on. We have reviewed all of these and streamlined them to create a more efficient workplace. This has been a big but necessary undertaking. Continuous improvement is fundamental in any organisation.
  • Review of Financial Management Systems underway: The HKFA invited FIFA in to carry out a review of management arrangements under its ‘Performance’ programme. We have now obtained funding from them to install an integrated financial management system. This work is underway.
  • Enhancement of HR / admin / IT policies & procedures: The new HR Manager has done an excellent job in reviewing and amending our human resource capability including harmonizing remuneration, salary benchmarking, staff handbook etc.
  • Cultural Change Programme: In the last two years the HKFA has gone through significant change and growth. As anyone involved in business will testify this is a challenging time. At the same time the ‘day job’ of planning and administering football in Hong Kong must go on. For us this has been made more difficult in practical terms because our office is being refurbished to accommodate the new staff (again funded by FIFA).

I am proud of the staff of the HKFA both pre and post Project Phoenix. They are passionate about football and diligent in their work. All of the above changes have strengthened the organisation and put the HKFA on a firm footing when it comes to delivering the other more visible and externally focused recommendations of Project Phoenix.

We have made significant progress in these (what I call ‘on the pitch’) areas too including:
  • More Professional Representative Team (improved FIFA ranking): Most people recognise that Coach KIM, his coaches and players have improved significantly and punched above their weight in the Asian Cup qualifiers. Our FIFA ranking is 144 (November 2013) up from 172.
  • Development of HKFA Youth Academy: Our youth teams have made good progress too culminating in the historic qualification for the AFC finals of the U16 team.
  • Fully staffed Technical Department: We have appointed a Technical Director and Managers for Women’s Football, Refereeing, Coach Education, Futsal, Grassroots Football. Some people have been critical of us for spending money on people but that is what the money was earmarked for and without these resources there would be no one here to manage the programmes. 
  •  Revised Football Development Plan: The team of experts has reviewed current football development activities and programmes and has prepared a plan to enhance, expand and improve the work we do in football development. This plan has been endorsed by the HKFA Technical Committee and is being ‘rolled out’ as we speak.
  • National Curriculum: The Technical Department has written a ‘syllabus’ for how football should be taught from the grassroots up to the high performance level. This includes a consistent style and system of play.    
  • Preparation of Five-year Strategy: A five-year plan was one of the recommendations of Project Phoenix. This has been prepared and endorsed by the HKFA Board and the Government’s Football Task Force.
  • Premier League criteria agreed: The new Premier League will start in 2014. The criteria have been written and shared with the Clubs. They are based on AFC standards.
  • Club Development: – Two of our Clubs have been assessed by the AFC and granted AFC Champions League Licences. South China AA will be participating in the 2014 AFC Champions League; the first time Hong Kong has been represented at this level.
  • Improvements in Youth Development:
                •       Introduction of new Age-Group in Henderson League
                •    8,000 participants in summer youth programme in 2011, now 10,000+
  •  Integration of Women’s Football:
               •       New Women’s league, U20 league starting in Dec 2013
               •       Regional competitions and Training squads for U13/U15 and U18
  • Redesigned Coach Education Programme and Syllabus:
               •       Over 20 courses run in 2013, (487 new coaches in 2011, 600 in 2013)
               •       23% increase in registered coaches
  • Referee Development: (162 in 2011, now 221)
  • Futsal: – Primary Schools initiative and Intra-district competition

All of the examples above illustrate that Project Phoenix is having an impact on the pitch as well as off it. We have laid the foundations for future development.

So with just under a year to go of the three-year funded Project Phoenix, 15 of the 33 recommendations have been implemented in full. All of the others are either partially completed or on-going. There have been some notable successes both on and off the pitch. We cannot be accused of inactivity but I would accept that we could do better at publicising the changes we have made and the successes we have had.

Off the pitch, the HKFA is unrecognizable now as an organization from what it was two years ago. We have put the people and management systems in place to deliver change. We have an organization that is ‘fit for purpose’ and we have the strategic plan in place to radically improve football in Hong Kong. The organisational development and the strategic planning have taken time and naturally most of this has been internal and therefore gone largely unnoticed by the public. I would contend that the ‘develop’ phase of Project Phoenix has been completed successfully.

In terms of ‘delivery’ ‘on the pitch’ we have made significant progress too. The Representative Teams have shown real signs of improvement reflected by an improved FIFA ranking despite having insufficient resources. Our U16 team has qualified for the AFC finals for the first time ever. We have secured a Club place in the AFC Champions League for the first time ever. We have integrated Women’s football and started a new league. We have more coaches trained, more referee development and established Futsal in the schools.  We have a new grassroots programme planned and more young people are now playing football through the expansion of the District training programme. These are all positive indicators that show that progress is being made. Each on their own is a small achievement but collectively it is evidence of a fundamental shift in the fortunes of football in Hong Kong.

We are not satisfied with the speed of change however and we know that there is much more that needs to be done. Some of the other fundamental Project Phoenix recommendations remain ‘work in progress’ but over the next few months many of these will come to fruition too like the Hong Kong Premier League that will ‘kick off’ in 2014.

The development of the much needed Tseung Kwan O Football Training Centre is slower than we hoped but is now picking up pace again. The HKFA is working in conjunction with the HKJC and Government on plans for the centre and we hope to make some positive announcements early in 2014*(see footnote).

Looking ahead beyond the current three year funding cycle, we will need more resources to implement all of the strategic plan recommendations but we are working on that too. If we don’t get as much as we would like, we will have to make difficult choices and prioritise our work. Over the next few months we must continue to move forward and we will be working with our partners to deliver the other changes identified in Project Phoenix. The three year funding finishes at the end of October 2014. We must demonstrate that the project has been worthwhile to persuade the Government and other partners including the commercial sector to invest in football long term.  We hope all of the football stakeholders in Hong Kong will join forces to demonstrate the positive progress that is being made and to support the call for the future long term funding of football in Hong Kong. We have reached a critical point in time.

I would like to correct an error that was transmitted in a recent RTHK programme on Project Phoenix. It was incorrectly stated that the HKFA had only requested HK$25m of the total HK$60m of the Government’s Project Phoenix funding. In actual fact, HK$58m (97%) has been requested, committed and agreed. As you would expect at this stage of the project not all of it has been claimed because the expenditure has yet to be incurred. It is a cash flow issue. Indeed we also have an agreement in principle with the Government to spend the unallocated HK$2m on Project Phoenix related items. I don’t know how the programme got their facts so wrong but we will use all of the funding available, why wouldn’t we?

For me, there is no doubt that Project Phoenix remains the right plan for the HKFA and for football. We are making good progress on its implementation and there have been some real results. Given the slow start and given how difficult it is to implement change, I am generally satisfied with progress, but certainly not complacent. I also know that there is a lot of work still to be done. I am not worried about the detractors, there will always be those that resist change; that is human nature. Effective leadership is about having a clear vision and the resilience to see things through. I remain committed to improving football in Hong Kong for the benefit of the sport and the countless thousands of people who understand why things MUST change.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO, December 2013

*Footnote: The proposed Football Training Centre at Tseung Kwan O is to be built on a former landfill site. As such it is not suitable for housing development.  









  • 新憲法及董事局:一套全新的憲法文件經已落實執行,同時更多的獨立董事亦已就任。
  • 強大的行政團隊(創造24個新職位):「鳳凰計劃」表明香港足球總會面對人手不足問題,尤以技術及操作職位為甚,因此足總透過「鳳凰計劃」的資助下,進行一連串招聘及委任工作,而二十四位新同事亦先後到任,其中包括一些較重要的管理層職位,例如財務總監、人力資源經理、公司管治總監、市場推廣及傳訊部總監等。上述所有職位都屬於足總的核心所在,令組織架構得以更加完整。
  • 完成審查全盤的公司管治政策: 在任何一間機構中,都會存在數以百計的政策、程序、工作守則等,全面涵蓋財務管理部、人力資源部、市場部、採購部等。足總對所有相關政策作出檢討及加以簡化,從而建立一個具效率的工作環境。雖然工程浩大,但必須落實執行,持續改變是任何一間機構的基本事情。
  • 檢討進行中的財政管理制度:香港足球總會邀請國際足協,在其「效能」計劃下,共同執行管理安排的審查工作。這項工作正在進行中,我們從國際足協獲得資助,安裝一套整合的財政管理系統。
  • 強化人力資源 / 行政 / 資訊科技政策及程序:新委任的人力資源經理在工作崗位作出重大貢獻,全面檢討及修訂人力資源相關的政策,包括協調報酬制度、薪酬基準、員工手冊等。
  • 改變文化項目:過去兩年,香港足球總會銳意改變及成長,任何人涉及其中,都會證明這是一段充滿挑戰的時刻。與此同時,同事依舊為籌劃及落實香港足球發展而需要「每天工作」。由於需要容納更多新同事的加入,因此足總辦事處正在進行翻新工程(由國際足協資助),對於我們而言,箇中辛勞可想而知!


  • 香港代表隊大躍進(提升國際足協排名):大部分獲悉在金判坤主教練及其團隊的帶領下,香港代表隊已在亞洲盃外圍賽中取得明顯進步,國際足協排名已從172位躍升至144位(201311月)。
  • 香港足球總會青年軍發展:我們的青年代表隊取得美滿成績,U16代表隊歷史性取得亞洲足協決賽週的入場門券。
  • 技術部門  全部人才到位:我們經已委任技術總監及女子足球經理、裁判經理、教練培訓經理、五人足球經理、草根足球經理等。某些批評聲音認為我們大灑金錢在人事招聘上,但當初預算的支出正正是用於這方面。假如這些資源欠奉,相信沒有人願意管理這些不同範疇的項目。
  • 已修訂的足球發展計劃:專家團隊已檢討目前的足球發展計劃,並已計劃作出如何強化、擴展及改善該項目,該計劃已獲得香港足球總會技術委員會審批及正式「出爐」。
  • 香港課程:技術部已編制「課程大綱」,著重講解如何由草根足球晉升至高效能程度上,大綱包含了持續模式及比賽制度。    
  • 五年策略計劃的籌備工作:五年計劃是「鳳凰計劃」其中一項建議方案,該計劃書已籌備妥當並獲得香港足球總會董事局及香港特區政府足球專責小組的簽署。
  • 職業聯賽已同意的準則:全新的職業聯賽將會於二○一四年展開,相關準則已編寫完成並與各球會分享,所有準則都建基於亞洲足協標準。
  • 球會發展: 本地兩間甲組球會已經獲得亞洲足協評審並成功取得亞洲足協亞洲盃的牌照。南華體育會將參加二○一四年的亞冠盃賽事,這是香港首次成功派出代表參加這項亞洲頂級球會賽事。
  • 改善青少年發展計劃:
           •       在恒基青少年聯賽中引入新年齡組別
           •       二○一一年大約有八千名參加者加入暑期青少年計劃,目前已超過一萬名
  • 整合女子足球:
           •       全新的女子足球聯賽、女子U20足球聯賽於二○一三年十二月展開
           •       女子U13/U15U18球隊的地區比賽和訓練
  • 重新設計教練培訓課程及教學大綱:
           •       二○一三年開辦超過二十項課程(2011年有487名新教練,2013年有600名)
           •       註冊教練的人數激增23%
  • 裁判培訓:(2011162 現階段221)
  • 五人足球:倡議在全港小學推廣及舉行全港區際比賽



至於「比賽場外」,與兩年前比較,香港足球總會可謂今非昔比,我們在人事及管理上作出重大改變。我們是一個「符合目的」的組織,已有合適到位的策略計劃去改變香港足球狀況。無論在組織架構 以至方案策劃都需要時間執行,自然地大部分轉變都成為了「份內事」,公眾未必容易獲悉。我認為「鳳凰計劃」的「發展」階段已經大功告成。







二○一三年十二月  行政總裁薜基輔   




  1. Just one question. Grass pitches all over Hong Kong are in terrible condition. My boy like many others has no option but to play on these pitches regularly. No improvement whatsoever has been made despite countless complaints. It's nice to hear that Project Phoenix is making good progress. But for the players, the most pressing problem is the horrible state and condition of these pitches. Is there a solution to this problem? If you don't mind me saying, I can’t see how Project Phoenix could come to fruition if the players in Hong Kong can't even find a good football pitch to play on.

    1. Dear Bob,
      You are absolutely right. It is impossible to develop good players on poor surfaces. There are too few grass pitches in Hong Kong and the demand for them means that they are over-used and therefore the condition deteriorates.
      There is no easy answer because there is not enough space to build new pitches. The Government is in the process of converting grass pitches to artificial because an artifical pitch can be used 24/7 whereas a grass pitch should really be used for less than 1 session per day if the quality is to be maintained. The only other answer is to prioritise usage, which is what we are talking to the Government about right now. From our point of view, we would like priority to be given to youth development but that would lead to complaints from the general public. What this debate really reinforces is the need for the Tseung Kwan O Training Centre. That is a MUST now.
      You have highlighted the biggest issue we are facing. Thank you. Regards

    2. Bob (Mark) the point is a valid one and something that could be addressed without trying to think too big.
      I suggest a reading of Rasmus Ankerson's "The Gold Mine Effect" and consider whether quality of facilities is the real answer to the question.
      I would also suggest a discussion with the LCSD to allow (young) youth futsal to be played on public basketball courts and/or indoor sports halls. There appears to be an abundance of these that could be better utilized with the correct time management.

    3. Dear Charlie,
      I have read Rasmus' comments and from memory he was talking about the development of track and field athletes rather than footballers (I might be wrong but that is my memory).
      I really believe that the quality and quantity of football pitches is holding back the development of football in Hong Kong. You will know yourself as a coach that the roll and bounce of the ball is important in skill acquisition. I know there is an argument that playing on poor pitches makes you work harder and develop better touch because of the inconsistency but I would still prefer to coach on a good surface.
      Your point about playing on hard surfaces is a good one and we are already in discussion with LCSD about putting many of our grassroots programmes on these venues. This should free up some of the other pitches for the older kids.

    4. Dear Mark,
      Yes, until the Tseung Kwan O Training Centre is completed (but it might take a few more years), we will have no choice but to make the best of what we've got. Incidentally, there is a newspaper article recently by Mr. Li Tak Nang suggesting that we could look into the possibility of building football pitches on top of the reservoirs. Ho Man Tin East Service Reservoir Playground is an example where we have 2 football pitches building on top of a reservoir. Here is the article (in Chinese)
      I don't know how feasible the suggestion is, but I guess it is worth looking into seriously as it won't be possible to improve the quality of the pitches without first increasing the quantity.
      On a totally different issue, I would like to share with you the following 2 articles.
      There are 2 points worth considering:-
      1. It is of utmost importance that we must increase the size of the player pool and to do that, we must start with the youth (especially the youngest players). Top down approach (ie. focusing on the professional game) is not going to work.
      2. When you have lots and lots of kids playing football, you will attract the interest of sponsors.
      I don't know if Tom Byer's experience in Japan is applicable to Hong Kong or not. But in view of his huge success there, perhaps it is a good idea to at least take heed of his advice.

    5. Dear Bob,
      Thanks for the comments and the links (which I have taken a look at).
      Regarding the service reservoirs, Mr Li is a member of the Government's Football Task Force. He and I had a conversation about using these areas at a recent meeting. I think it is an excellent idea because we need all of the pitches we can get. I have asked a member of my team to investigate.
      In relation to increasing the talent pool, I agree we need to broaden the base of participation and get more young people playing. I also believe that we need to work with the Professional Clubs too. A top down approach and a bottom up approach are not mutually exclusive. If you take a look at one of my previous Blogs on Player Pathways you will see a pyramid that illustrates simultaneously increasing participation at the base and increasing the quality at the top. I think we can do both.
      It seems that Tom Byer is doing a good job in China as he did previously in Japan. There are certainly lessons we can learn. It seems that football is a higher priority politically in China than here in Hong Kong for a start.
      We are starting to roll-out a new grassroots football programme for both boys and girls involving schools and Districts. We hope that this will get more young people playing football and that the pathways can be put in place to keep them in the sport as they get older. They have been through similar transformational processes in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium etc. The results take time to work their way through the system.
      Thanks again and Regards, Mark

  2. 5 years in a row the league title sponsorship had to be filled up by Mr Lo.
    5 years in a row the Senior Shield was sponsored by that mainland whatever brand, obviously obtained through personal connection, not marketing proposal.
    5 years in a row including this year the FA Cup had to be running naked.

    Who should be responsible for this?

  3. Dear Sai Lam Wong,
    Thank you for your comment. As I said in my Blog, generating commercial revenue is proving more difficult than I had envisaged. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly I know that attracting sponsorship is not just a football problem. Other sports are finding it difficult too, take the recent HK Golf Open for example. The economic situation is such that Companies do not want to part with their money as easily as they once did. Secondly I think that we must be honest and say that football in Hong Kong is not yet a product that brands want to associate with. Hong Kong football must project a unified and positive image and be seen to be squeaky clean. So it doesn't help when the different football factions argue in public all the time.
    What I can tell you is that the lack of commercial sponsorship is not for the want of trying. We have our own marketing team and we have been using an Agency that specialises in attracting sponsorship. Between us we have approached well over 250 potential partners, many of whom we have presented to and in some cases got pretty close to signing deals. It is frustrating because the lack of money in the HKFA is preventing us from doing a lot of good community and grassroots development.
    We will keep trying and hopefully some commercial organisations will see what we are trying to do and 'buy-into' the long term strategy. I believe that as football in Hong Kong continues to improve, it will become easier to find commercial partners. That will only happen however if the people involved in football work together rather than being negative.

    1. Okay, so if you have also understood that generating commercial revenue is difficult under the economic situation nowadays, how can the local clubs be able to find extra resources on fulfilling the requirements of the new HK League? Giving that they may not have a marketing team and agency to get the job done? And even the HKFA have them, still failed to get the job done?

      We all knew the difficulties, therefore taxpayers' money aka Phoenix Project fund was spent on hiring professionals to deal with it. If they all failed to do the job, we deserve to know who they are. The same rationale applies to football: If a player fails to match the requirements, he got axed or his contract will not be extended.

      And even though a local tournament attracted no commercial sponsorship, it shouldn't be running naked. Provide the title for free to charities, existing sponsors like Pocari, is still better than nothing. Imaging, relationship, experiences could be generated from it. Speaking of image, take a look at the Senior Shield, apart from mentioning their brand name, which obviously they didn't care much, what have the HKFA done for Canbo? As for the league sponsorship, was there any interaction program between Red Mr and the League? Any coupon been giving out? Any Red Mr's promotion been mentioned on HKFA facebook? How could you find a high-profile job with poor resume?

      Indeed really frustrating. More questions and suggestions will be coming up.

    2. Dear Sai Lam Wong,
      Thank you for your further comment.
      We have recognised that some of the Clubs do not have huge resources. That is why we have introduced two tiers for the Club Licence (please see my previous Blog). Getting a Hong Kong Club Licence will not be resource intensive. We are not expecting the Clubs to do anything other than what they should be doing already as a professional club. It doesn't cost money to have proper player contracts or transparent finances etc. Also we are trying hard to find additional resources for them particularly in the area of youth development. The Clubs and the FA need to work together to get the snowball rolling. We have no choice but to start small but hopefully as the new League develops there will be better quality on the pitch, more spectators, more gate receipts, more sponsors etc.The snow ball will grow which will ultimately benefit the Clubs. I know that we are asking some Clubs to take a 'leap of faith' but what is the alternative? Things can't stay as they are.
      I do not believe that the professionals involved in Project Phooenix have 'failed to do their job'. If you read my Blog again you will see how many positive things we have done. Of course there is always room for improvement and we will keep trying.
      Regarding the 2014 FA Cup, we have not given up hope of finding a sponsor and indeed we are negotiating with a Company right now, so I hope the competition will not be running 'naked' as you put it. We offer a range of benefits to all of our partners which are negotiated at the start of the contract; we do not simply take the money and offer nothing back.

    3. According to your previous blog, as you put it,

      "it is inevitable that Clubs will need to invest some time and money in obtaining a Licence...We will also expect them to find the additional resources required."

      So where do the additional money and resources come from? Given that the HKFA are also struggling to do it?


      "We (HKFA) will do our utmost to secure additional resources that can be used to help the Clubs to ‘gear up’... At the end of the day it is the Clubs that will ultimately benefit if the League is successful by attracting more money from gate receipts, sponsorship, merchandising, prize money etc."

      To secure additional resources, to attract more sponsorship and prize money. These are what the HKFA/Project Phoneix team have been failing to do. And these are the most important jobs, and the reason why taxpayers' money were needed to hire some professionals.

      Of course I hope that the Company you guys are negotiating will open their green light on the FA Cup. But as you put it on this blog:

      "Between us we have approached well over 250 potential partners, many of whom we have presented to and in some cases got pretty close to signing deals."

      If that marketing team failed all their 250 attempts, how could we be positive on this one? And regarding the benefits the HKFA offered to the sponsors, as a fan, I really didn't see enough proactive approaches from the HKFA either online or offline, especially on the Senior Shield and the League. Of course you will say that they're trying hard and we should give them some more time. Okay. But speaking of transparent finances, which the HKFA are requesting the clubs to do, what about the HKFA be more financially transparent as well? We want and need to know the salary of those new and existing managers, new marketing staff, etc. Because it is taxpayers' money. If they fail to secure a FA Cup sponsorship this season while still making good money, their salary cut and transfer into prize money for the FA Cup. Better than nothing.

    4. Dear Sai Lam Wong,
      Please read my last response to you and my previous Blog on the Premier League. I repeat, we have recognised that it will be difficult for some Clubs to meet the original requirements so we have lowered the thresholds to make it as easy as possible, whilst still requiring the Clubs to be 'professional'. It is a question of scale; very few of the criteria will require any significant investment. All of the criteria requiring major investment have been deferred. I would ask you to take a look at the criteria and tell me which ones are unrealistic. All we are expecting Clubs to do is what anybody would think they should be doing already.
      Again, I would reiterate that the staff employed through Project Phoenix are doing many many things that are very positive in taking football forward. I have been honest and stated publically that the one thing that we are disappointed with is the attraction of commercial revenue. You are right, we are trying hard and we won't give up trying. We are reviewing our strategy for generating sponsorship. One thing that is important is that football as a whole creates a positive image; it doesn't help when it appears that factions within football are at loggerheads. If the people involved in football want to see football develop, improve and become more financially viable, then they should all work together.
      I won't divulge individual salaries because I don't believe it is appropriate to do so and I don't think most people would expect us to. Remuneration is a personal matter between an individual and the employer. If the Government want to release that information because they are using tax payers money, that is up to them. In terms of transparency, we will be expecting Clubs to share with us their Audited Accounts. I see nothing wrong with that. The Audited Accounts of the HKFA are a matter of public record.
      We should know about the FA Cup sponsorship within a few weeks.
      Once again, thanks for your comments.

    5. Okay, then it comes to a point: HKFA are requiring the clubs to be more professional, by making changes that require insignificant additional investment, then how much can we expect from the new HK League given that significant changes or investment are not necessary in place? Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the local clubs should not be taking their steps forward, and I am not expecting the new HK League will be so much better than its previous one within so short of time, my point is the new Project Phoenix team themselves having been failing in the most crucial area: bringing in money, after millions of taxpayers' money has been spent. If your team keep struggling, then fiction with the club bosses, disappointment and sarcasm from the fans, are unavoidable.

      Regarding the related staff employed through Project Phoenix, you repeatedly mentioned that they have done many positive things, but what I've been pointing out is the MOST important thing : Bringing in money, which they've been failing to do, and you admitted it. If they keep failing while making good money, which is taxpayers' money, they should take the responsibility, as simple as that.

      And speaking of positive image, apart from that heavily-criticized new HKFA website, I would ask you to take a look at some of the terrible graphics displayed on behalf of HKFA this year, see the links below:

      And then compare them to, if Japan and Europe are too far away, what Nike have done for the HK team promotion. If these are the old HKFA staff's work, tell them to stop doing it. If these are the new marketing team's work, just hand the work to Nike or something else. "Same old shit" is the message and image generated in our mind after seeing these utterly amateurish stuff. The majority of the fans have been expecting something new from the Project Phoenix, since 14 April 2011. I would suppose the good-things-making marketing team knew the basic rule of imaging and packaging, especially given the situation that the fans are indeed losing hope on Project Phoenix and the new HK League right now, plus the league attendance has been declining.

      I would try my way to realize how the Project Phoenix funds been exactly distributed. And I will be thrill to see the FA Cup finally not running naked. If your team fail on this one, prepare to be treated like a naked runner by the fans. Put a picture on the wall of their office, which is the one showing the Hong Kong team winning the 2009 East-Asian Games gold-medal in football. They are the men who made Project Phoenix happens, they are the men who gave them the job right now. Those men's career is short and it's been 4 years long now, just put some money in footballers' pocket as soon as possible by bringing in sponsorship/prize money right now. Disclose your failed attempts on finding sponsorship, disclose those failed proposals/ideas minus those sensitive and private names, among the fans there're professionals too.

    6. Dear Sai Lam Wong,
      Thank you again for your comments, it is clear that you are passionate about Hong Kong football as indeed we all are at the HKFA.
      Believe me we have deliberated long and hard about the Club Licencing Regulations for the Premier League. We have tried to strike a balance by making the criteria stretching enough to make a difference but easy enough so that Clubs can achieve the standard without too much difficulty. This has not been easy but what we are hoping is that it will lead to an improvement even if this is initially incremental. 2014/15 is about starting the snowball rolling.
      I don't deny that getting sponsorship, not just for the Premier League but for all of our programmes is very important but whether it is the MOST important is a matter of judgement. As far as I am concerned all of the recommendations of Project Phoenix are important. We are trying to change the whole sport and the professional part is just one cog in the wheel.
      There is room for improvement in our marketing as indeed there is in lots of areas. However I think your examples are selective and I could show you many examples of where things have improved significantly too.
      I will return in January, refreshed and energised to address the important issues you have raised.
      Merry Christmas.

    7. Actually, the club licence thing will not impress the fans even though I agree that it should be done. Taking South China as an example. Now they can participate in the ACL qualifier YES, but is it because they have improved themselves to match the standard? No. They still don't have their own stadium and training ground. Their youth development remains at their previous level. Their marketing campaigns are still those same old things. They spent less on the squad and they hired a relegated coach as their new coach which upsets most of their fans. Their average attendance has been dropping. They've done nothing new but an qualified proposal. Do you believe a man can successfully applied a better job with only a better written resume but not improved experiences or skills? Yes, it could happen, but would you expect him to do a better job than before? No. The critical mass remains money, which South China is about to spend on signing bigger names, and which finally drew some more attentions from the local football fans. South China will have a half season of Asia competitions to fight for so they spend, but why a local club spend more than before for tournaments with only insignificant (if not zero likes the previous FA Cups) prize money? No need to repeat the importance of the self-upgrading of the clubs I agree with that, but you need to understand the pessimistic. You can have your judgement on whether getting money is the most important, I am not gonna argue with that. But I don't think after millions of taxpayers' money has been spent, asking for a sponsorship on a local trophy is too demanding.

      My examples are not selective, there're too many of them. Of course you can show me your examples of significantly improved stuffs, I agree that there are some of them, but please remember how much taxpayers' money has been spent on those improved stuffs before your team take credit of it. I stop right here because I know the match-fixing scandal is gonna give you headache, and it is one of the most important things to deal with right now. The 12 teams expansion was indeed a mistake. We can discuss about it later. And Yuen Long is gonna have a 6-weeks winter break. We can discuss about it as well.

  4. After reading your blog, I went to watch the RTHK program. The program is very negative to the Project Phoenix It said the HKFA spent most of the Phoenix funding on the restructure for getting too many mangers and staffs.
    I am totally disagree this point. Nowadays,each staff has his own responsibility and special skill and knowledge to look after his own area. This is the correct approach to run the organization .
    In the program Mr. Lee from Rangers club said he does not get any benefit under the current Phoenix scheme. It seems there is lack of communications between the clubs and the HKFA. to aim the goal of the Project Phoenix
    We are happy to see a new Premium League in 2014. there is too little news to get the progress and information the new League. It is only 8 months away to start the league. We do not know what are the teams and how many will be, Minimum and capped salary of the football players etc....Please try to improve this area. .

    1. Dear Ken,
      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that the programme was not particularly positive. I tried to explain to them that the Project Phoenix money was earmarked specifically to provide the 'Human Resources' the HKFA needs to promote football effectively at all levels. Without professional staff how can we develop grassroots football, youth football, coach education, referee development, our Academy, the National Team etc etc and how can we manage ourselves as a credible organisation without a Financial Controller, or HR Manager or Marketing staff? To some extent the producers of the programme missed the point that Project Phoenix is about much more than just the 1st Division Clubs. It is about transforming the HKFA and the sport in Hong Kong from the grassroots upwards.
      Regarding communication between the HKFA and the Clubs, all I can say is that they were consulted when the strategy was being written, they voted for it at the AGM and I have briefed them on a monthly basis since I have been here. They have all seen the criteria for the new League.
      Please take a look at my previous Blog on the new League, it gives quite a bit of detail including a paper setting out the criteria.
      I will try and give a monthly update from now on. The number of Clubs will depend on how many apply and how many are successful. We are hoping for 12 but we will run with a minimum of 8. The 1st Division Clubs have until the end of January to confirm their intention to apply. There will be no minimum or maximum wage for players.

  5. Dear Mark,

    Really appreciate for your works, and glad to see the changes in HK football.

    I agree with the strategy that, the quality of the game is the core issue which must be improve, so, I assume the key of the improvement is the youth player development, it's good to hear that the youth team performs very well, but, as my view, the league and club still take time to be more professional level (several years may be), is there any arrangement for the current well-trained youth player?

    in the current scale of the HK football, only the passionate youth players will join the current HK Club, caused by the low-paid salary, no visible future.

    It will be a deadlock, if well-trained youth player being a lawyer or doctor, rather than join the game.

    What's your view and current action on this?

    plus, you mentioned most of the things are the operational improvement in the past 3 years, I understand that it's huge work to make HKFA to up to the FIFA standard, and settle the cultural issue. I'd like to know is the internal operation improvement completed yet, what's the 1st priority task/goal to accomplish this years, still the internal issue?

    Thanks again for the great works from all HKFA staffs.

  6. Dear Steve,
    Thank you for your comment and support, it is much appreciated.
    You are correct, the future of Hong Kong football is our youth players. We have a new Academy Head Coach who joined us from Barcelona. He is a very experienced coach and is doing a good job with our development squads. We are working to a new curriculum and introducing a small-sided games approach to develop young players.
    We also need to raise the standard of our Clubs and increase the funding coming into the sport so that over time it becomes a career that people can aspire to. This will take time but in the meantime, we want to establish scholarship programmes so people can pursue football training at the same time as academic endeavour.
    I am about to post another blog about Project Phoenix which explains that the 'internal' transformation is virtually complete. Organisations never stop developing but all of the recommendations about internal change have been implemented. The 'new' HKFA is radically different to the 'old' HKFA. We are well on the way to delivering the external change too as my blog will show.
    Thank you once again for your positive comments.

  7. pretty comprehensive response. Thanks!
    It's the cornerstone for the HKFA.

    As a HongKonger, can't wait to see you all make the plan comes true. :)

  8. Dear Mr. Sutcliffe,

    I read the project Phoenix report with a lot of interest. I'm very interested in the development of football. I've visit a lot of games in Holland, Hong Kong and some games in England, Italy, Korea, China and Japan. As a real football fan born and raised in Europe with a marketing and retail management background, I have analyzed the Hong Kong football and got some ideas I want to share with you to make football more attractive for fans and sponsors. Also these ideas will improve more revenue to the football. Is there a way I can discuss these ideas with you? For example in half time of the game Kitchee - South China on 18th of april Or maybe at HKFA office.
    I ask only 10 min of your time and I'm sure there will be ideas for you to use to develop Hong Kong's football. Please let me know ASAP as I will travel back to Europe on 26th of April.

    Kind regards,

    Lam, Chi-King

  9. Dear Chi-King,
    Sorry for the late response and thanks for your interest in Hong Kong football. I can spare some time to meet with you to listen to your ideas. I can meet with you on Tuesday 22nd in the morning if that is convenient. e-mail me on

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