Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Phoenix is Rising 鳳凰展翅翱翔

The Phoenix is Rising

The debate about the efficacy of Project Phoenix seems to be ‘hotting up’. In my previous blog I explained why the project is in no way connected with the current match-fixing allegations. If anything, the allegations reinforce the importance of Project Phoenix which is about improving the quality of football and ‘professionalising’ the 1st Division by introducing a new league based on a licence system. The licence criteria will demand transparency in; governance, management and financial arrangements. Ultimately, the Premier League should result in more money coming into the sport through increased gate receipts, sponsorship etc and as this cascades down to player wages, they will hopefully be less susceptible to corruption. So rather than saying ‘the sport is corrupt in Hong Kong and this proves Project Phoenix is not working’, people should be saying ‘football has a world-wide problem with corruption, Hong Kong is no different, but if we are to limit and reduce the problem, Project Phoenix and the new Premier League are essential’.

There are many other misconceptions about Project Phoenix and I hope through this blog to dispel some of them.
Please click on the full report for more details.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO, January 2014





薜基輔, 行政總裁, 二○一四年一月


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Now more than ever, Football Stakeholders need to work together 從今開始 足球相關人士必須團結一致

Now more than ever, Football Stakeholders need to work together

As you can imagine, since my return from the UK most of my time has been taken up dealing with the well-publicised match-fixing allegations. I am not going to talk about the cases that are currently being investigated by the ICAC because it is an on-going situation. Suffice to say we have worked closely with the ICAC, not just in relation to the current allegations but on an on-going basis. There is a regular dialogue and sharing of information. This is always on a strict confidential basis. I applaud their diligence and am grateful for their determination to prevent corruption in all its forms.

It is important to note that in relation to these latest allegations, although arrests have been made, no-one has been found guilty of an offence. So my comments below are general remarks and do not relate to any individuals or clubs. However the fact that this has happened disappoints and frustrates me on many levels.

Firstly on a personal level, I detest cheats. Sport has been a constant and dominating force throughout my life. I have been a player, a coach, a manager and more recently an administrator. The majority of the positive things that have happened to me are a direct result of sport whether it is personal achievement, friendships, cultural understanding or the shear pleasure of competition. If you play sport for its intrinsic value you learn to win with humility and to lose graciously. You accept pleasure, pain, anger, elation, humiliation, respect and just about every other human emotion. Therefore I find it totally abominable that some people seek to abuse the purity of competition for personal greed and gain. They destroy the very essence of sport. 

That is why I am glad that this investigation is taking place. It is time to do whatever we can to clean up our sport. The HKFA will cooperate fully with the investigation and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to anyone found guilty. Our resolve to sort this out should not be doubted.

Secondly I am disappointed that some people are using this unfortunate incident to denigrate Project Phoenix. The undeniable fact is that match-fixing is a global sports issue. It is not restricted to football or Hong Kong. There are cheats in every sport and there have been since sport was first created. Cricket, cycling, tennis even snooker to name a few have all had problems recently. It is particularly prevalent and high profile in football because it is a global sport that attracts huge betting and media interest. There have been allegations of match-manipulation investigated in over 60 countries in the last two years. So why should Hong Kong be any different? Since I started work here I have been consistent in saying that corruption is a threat and that there are certain characteristics of the local game that make it more susceptible. It is a fact that players, coaches, referees and club officials are paid relatively badly compared to other countries and professions. Furthermore we are in a part of Asia where this kind of corruption is rife. Betting on local football is not legal within our own territory and is therefore difficult to monitor.

So no-one should be surprised that these allegations have come to light, (indeed it has happened here before) but to link it to the Government funded project to transform football and to say that that initiative is not working, is both unjust and missing the point.

Project Phoenix is about improving the whole sport including the governance, administration, partnerships, activities and programmes, structures, systems, facilities etc. It is a roots and branches transformation process. Professional football is only one component of the plan. Whilst the Clubs are Members of the Association, they are independent entities and most of what they do currently falls outside the remit of the HKFA.

If anything, these allegations reinforce the need for Project Phoenix. The whole point of the project is to enhance the quality of football being played in Hong Kong through the systematic development of players. Better quality on the pitch should over time make the local game a product that people will want to watch and this will bring back the crowds and commercial income streams. As the money in the sport increases people should be less vulnerable to corruption.

The other important part of Project Phoenix that this incident strengthens the need for, is of course the establishment of a new Premier League. As I have previously stated, the rationale for this initiative is to ‘professionalise’ the top tier of football in Hong Kong. It is to be based on a Licence system and as part of the Licence application process, clubs will need to explain their ownership, governance and management arrangements. They will also have to demonstrate financial transparency and submit audited accounts.

During the establishment of the new League, the HKFA will continue to work with the ICAC and we will be educating players, coaches, referees and officials on match-fixing, corruption, doping and discrimination. We will implement a Fraud Prevention system because we want the league to be as ethically sound as possible because that is the only way that fans and sponsors will want to get involved. We will also introduce a Fraud Detection system to monitor our matches and flag up any suspicious activity.

I understand why some people may want to distance themselves from Hong Kong football right now but I would ask them to bear in mind that this is a global, not a Hong Kong issue and is restricted to a few corrupt individuals over which the HKFA currently has little influence. I would also remind them that we are being proactive in sorting out the problems. Project Phoenix is instrumental in addressing the difficulties and can be the catalyst for a new era. Rather than hiding in the shadows sniping at the HKFA and specifically Project Phoenix, we need all of the football stakeholders in Hong Kong to stand shoulder to shoulder, to maintain the faith in the long term future of football in Hong Kong and to work together to uphold the integrity of the sport.

從今開始   足球相關人士必須團結一致

自從英國回來後,你可以想像我就一直忙於處理有關賽場上涉嫌非法操控賽事的事件,由於案件正在進入調查階段,因此我未能談及關於香港廉政公署的調查內容,只能透露我們與香港廉政公署一直保持緊密合作,並非純粹就目前指控方面的交流,而是雙方過去一直保持良好的合作關係,相互交流信息,並會堅守對有關資訊採取保密原則, 本人對於廉署堅決執行打擊貪污的工作予以高度讚揚和心存感激。


首先在個人而言,我痛恨欺騙的行為。運動過去是我人生中一股永恆不變的重要力量,我曾經是一名運動員、一位教練、一名經理甚至成為一位現任的行政人員,大部分在我身上所發生的事情都是正面的,無論是個人成就、友誼、文化知識或比賽所帶來的歡愉,都是源自於運動所帶來的結果。倘若你參與運動並掌握它的真實價值時,你便能夠從中學懂如何謙遜地取得勝利以及如何不失風度地輸掉比賽,你能夠接受喜悅、痛楚、憤怒、 興高采烈、羞辱、尊敬以及任何人類情感。因此,本人非常厭惡某些人以一己之欲或自我利益,試圖褻瀆賽事的純潔,以摧毀運動的核心價值。


其次,本人對於某些人士將今次不幸事件以詆毀「鳳凰計劃」而深表失望,毫無疑問非法操控賽事屬於全球運動必須應對的事件,並非局限於香港足球運動。自從運動的出現,任何類型的賽事都會有詐騙情況發生,木球、單車、網球以至桌球比賽的作弊行為亦時有聽聞,在足球賽事上特別受到關注的原因,全因它屬於風行全球的運動,當中吸引龐大的賭注及傳媒興趣,在過去兩年中全球超過六十個國家都出現非法操控賽事的調查,那麼為何香港屬於異類?自從我在這裡任職後,一直反覆強調貪污行為是重大危害 ,容易令部分本土賽事變得較為敏感,事實上,相對其他國家或專業球隊而言,香港球員、教練、裁判員以及球會職員待遇條件較低;再者,我們屬於亞洲地區的一部分,而這類貪污行為亦相對普遍。眾所周知,在香港本土範圍內賭博本地足球賽事屬於非法行為,導致變得難以監管。