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



  1. Dear Mark,

    Higher player wages will allow us to compete with other profession for players, but it won’t be the perfect solution to corruption as the sums involved in match-fixing is much too higher by comparsion. What we need are stringent rules and severe penalties in order to combat these illegal activities. I was really surprised to hear you saying that most of what the Clubs do currently fall outside the remit of the HKFA. To me, this is the root of the problem.

    Re-writing the constitution and extending the Membership are of the vital importance. A lot of the complaints against HKFA is due to a lack of transparency in the working of HKFA. Getting more people involved is the best way to dispel the notion that HKFA is “controlled” by a small number of people.

    Kung Hei Fat Choi!


  2. Dear Bob,
    Thanks for your comment. You are right that higher wages won't stop corruption but it might make players less susceptible. As you say, penalties need to be strong enough to act as a deterrent. We are adopting the FIFA zero-tolerance stance which means that anyone convicted will get a world-wide ban. What I meant in relation to the Clubs is that whilst they are Members of the HKFA, historically the Association has had little control over Club ownership, sponsorship arrangements, players contracts etc. This is set to change under the criteria set for the Premier League. The intention is not to control the Clubs but at least to regulate them and make sure they are professionally run.
    There are reports going to our Board Meeting this week about extending the Membership of the HKFA. It is also our intention at the next election to increase the number of Independent Directors. Things are changing here I can assure you of that.
    Kung Hei Fat Choi.

  3. Dear Mark,

    Happy Chinese New Year!

    Please take a look at this article:

    Match-fixing is not a problem unique to Hong Kong. It is wide-spread in the Far East. Some bookies even threaten players with violence not just to the players themselves but their families, as reported in the above news article.

    Some so-called football commentators in Hong Kong have no understanding how wide-spread and powerful the bookies are. I hope you realize that HK football and footballers are very vulnerable against such enemies to the game.

    If you punish the players for match-fixing by banning them etc then you may not be focusing on the major culprit and the mastermind behind all the corruption in football. HKFA and ICAC should really focus on the big fish.



    1. Dear Allan,
      Thank you for the comment and the link (which I have read).
      It really saddens me that our beautiful game has been infiltrated by international criminals. I think this is the biggest threat to football.
      Having attended a recent Interpol Conference on match-fixing I understand how widespread this problem is and how unscrupulous these people are. I can fully appreciate that players feel threatened and intimidated.
      Because this is an international problem with the criminals residing outside the territory where the crime is committed, it is difficult to catch the main culprits and masterminds.
      We must do what we can to help the international authorities by providing information but I think we also have a responsibility to deter local players, coaches and officials by giving out sanctions as and when appropriate. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't be sympathetic where there is claer evidence of coersion.

  4. Dear Mark,

    I am wondering if you will be scheduling any FIFA "A" International matches for the HK mens national team in June, as currently we only have one official match against Vietnam on March 5. I think more games would expose the players better and give us fans more things to cheer for.


    1. Dear John,
      We are in discussion with a number of countries about A Internationals this year. June is difficult because of the World Cup because even if countries are not involved directly many of their officials etc will be going to Brazil and they are not interested in playing. Also our domestic season finishes at the end of May and the Clubs will give the players June off before they start pre-season training in July. We haven't ruled June out but I think it is highly unlikely.
      It is more likely that we will use the FIFA International Match days in September, October and November. I agree it is necessary that we play as many matches as possible.
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Dear Mark,

    Have you read today's SCMP news about the players' complaints? Mr Li Jian has visited HKFA earlier and would like to seek assistance from officials with regard to the transfer. Vincent Yuen Man-chuen, general secretary of the HKFA, told Mr Li Jian that he could choose to play in another country, for example, UK Premier League, or play other football games not managed by HKFA. He told Mr Li Jian that HKFA did not disallow them from playing football and he was free to take out a football and play. He also suggested Mr Li Jian to work in other industry instead of football. Is it the assistance expected from the CEO/general public/football industry on the players' transfer issues? Shouldn't he immediately resign from the HKFA and work in other industry instead of Mr Li Jian? I am extremely pissed when reading this in newspaper. Mr Li Jian sweared that all he said was true and of course your General Secretary denied it.


  6. Dear Clin,
    To be honest, I don't tend to read the papers here in Hong Kong. Obviously I can't read most of them because they are written in Chinese. Therefore I don't want to read the English ones in case I get a biased perspective. I get a media summary from my colleagues in Marketing and Communications so I keep up to date with what people are saying about local football that way.
    You won't be surprised to hear that my colleague has a completely different recollection of the meeting to which you refer. There are two sides to every story.
    I have presonally made a commitment to meet with the Clubs and the players but so far none of them have asked me for a meeting. We have said that we will do what we can to assist the players and we will do that. Everybody should remember that it is not a straightforward issue however. Firstly it is the Club's obligation to continue to employ and pay the players. Only if there is mutual consent between the player and the club can a transfer be discussed. Then we have our HKFA Rules and the FIFA Regulations to consider and things vary from case to case. For example, I believe one of the players involved is actually on loan from another club so there is a third party to consult. Things are less difficult for local players but for foreign players we have the FIFA TMS and ITC issues to look at. In the case of Happy Valley, they have entered into a contract with a 'so-called' mainland sponsor (although the HKFA believes that that contract is not valid). That contract conveys third party rights to the mainland sponsor for any transfers (which is not actually permitted by the way, but that's another issue), so we have to take legal advice on that too.
    What people seem to be forgetting is that the clubs have brought a lot of this on themselves through their poor governance and management and by failing to demonstrate to the Ad hoc Committee that they have the financial resources necessary to meet their obligations. The HKFA has not been heavy-handed, it is acting in the best interests of the sport. The clubs are making a lot of noise about this in the media, we are choosing to be more circumspect. The truth will come out eventually but in my opinion it would be unedifying for the clubs and the HKFA to do battle in the press however much the media would love us to do so.
    I will finish by reiterating once again that the HKFA is concerned about player welfare and will help to facilitate transfers where this is possible.
    As ever, thanks for the comment.

    1. Dear Mark,

      Thanks a lot for your reply.
      I agree that there are two sides to every story.
      I believe in you, and all are done to the best interests of the industry.

      Best regards,

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