Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Why it’s not a good idea to ‘outsource’ the management of a football club 「外判」球會管理權非上策

Why it’s not a good idea to ‘outsource’ the management of a football club

Until I came to Hong Kong, I was not familiar with the concept of ‘outsourcing’ the management of a football club. By outsourcing I mean delegating the responsibility for all football matters to a third party, a so-called ‘sponsor’. In reality these third party organisations are not ‘sponsors’ in the true sense of the word. A sponsor is a partner that provides funds in return for marketing rights and benefits. What we are dealing with here are individuals or companies that provide money to the ‘parent’ club in return for the opportunity to actually operate and run the football club. 

If a Club owner or Sports Association wants to be involved in football they should want to take responsibility for recruiting players and coaches and for controlling what happens on the pitch. Why be involved if you have no interest in these issues? The Clubs themselves are the ‘Members’ of the Hong Kong FA and have the ultimate responsibility for every aspect of the club and its teams. There is nothing in our Rules at the moment to preclude an ‘outsourcing arrangement’ but if a Club intends to do so, there are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • The Club should know who it is outsourcing to – it should do due diligence on the individual or organization and understand exactly who they are dealing with and the motivations of the organization for getting involved. Dare I say it, they should be particularly careful if the people come from outside Hong Kong or if the ‘sponsor’ enters into similar agreements with yet another individual or organization which renders the club even further removed from the day to day operation of the club. It is the clubs’ responsibility to know these things.
  • The club should make sure that they are dealing with a bone fide organization and not simply a ‘shell’ company.
  • The Club should have a bone fide contract with the individual or organization that clearly sets out the different roles and responsibilities and confirms that the Club has the ultimate responsibility. The contract should not contain provisions that are prohibited under HKFA, AFC or FIFA Regulations e.g. conveying third party rights on transfers to the ‘sponsor’.
  • The contract should be properly executed and be specific about; the rights and benefits, where the money is coming from and what it is being used for. 
  • The Club should not delegate the recruitment of players or coaches to the ‘sponsor’ or the team selection. At all times the club should be able to control the behaviour of the players both on and off the pitch. This is a fundamental requirement and the minimum expectation of fans, media and in fact everyone involved in football.
  • If the sponsor shows any suspicious behaviour such as money laundering, late payment of players, match-fixing etc, the Club has an obligation to report such matters to the appropriate authorities. It should not simply turn a blind eye to these activities.
  • The Club should have contingency plans in case the ‘sponsor’ disappears mid-season or in case the money that has been promised fails to materialize. It is the club that has an obligation to the HKFA to be able to demonstrate that it can meet its liabilities including paying the players, not the ‘sponsor’.
  • The club should maintain timely and accurate management accounts at all times and records of the due diligence.

The criteria for the new Premier League include provisions that require transparency in governance and management. Under the new League the potential for Clubs to get into difficulty through outsourcing arrangements should be substantially reduced.

Mark Sutcliffe February 2014





  • 球會應該了解「外判者」的底蘊 — 球會應該慎重調查其個人的身份或公司背景,了解他們跟誰人往來,以及了解他們的參與動機。恕我直言,倘若來自非香港人士或「贊助商」與其他個別人士或公司達成共識而進一步將球會的日常管理權「判上判」的話,球會必須加以提防和有責任了解事情的來龍去脈。
  • 球會應當確保與他們合作的是一間實際存在的機構,而非純粹是一間「空殼」公司。
  • 球會應當與個別人士或組織簽訂具有法律效力之合約,並清楚列明雙方之責任及所擔任之角色,而球會負有最終責任。該合約之條款不應與香港足球總會、亞洲足協或國際足協之條例相抵觸。如將將第三方之權利轉讓至「贊助商」中。
  • 應當正確執行合約內容,並仔細列明當中涉及之權利和利益、財政來源以及開支用途等。 
  • 球會應當避免將球員買賣、招聘教練或球隊陣容之重任交託予「贊助商」中,球會應當時刻約束球員在場內場外之操守,這是球迷、傳媒以及每一位從事足球事業的人士對球會的基本要求和期望。
  • 倘若贊助商涉嫌從事任何不法行為,諸如洗黑錢、拖延球員薪酬、非法操控賽果等,球會有責任將有關事情向合適機關舉報,而非採取姑息或無視的態度。
  • 假若「贊助商」在球季中途突然失蹤或承諾所支付之金額未能兌現,球會應有一套緊急應變方案。同時,球會亦有責任向足總展示他們有能力應付債務問題,包括支付球員薪酬,而非由「贊助商」代勞。
  • 球會應當時刻查閱及管理會計帳項,保持準確委當,並仔細審核相關記錄。




  1. Football must be administered with a ground-up community approach. Without community involvement and oversight Clubs will roam unrestricted.

  2. Dear David,
    I couldn't agree more. The 'peripetetic' nature of football in Hong Kong certainly doesn't help. Teams moving from venue to venue each season means that there is no real community affinity. We have to try and do more to forge closer ties between clubs and the community. We hope that we can do more as part of the Premier League. In theory it should be easier for District teams so maybe all clubs should form partnerships with a local District.
    We will keep trying. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Dear Mark,

    I am working the financial services industry. Can I share with you two documents on the outsourcing policy that the banks/insurance companies have to follow? Perhaps we can have a similar one to be in placed for football industry?



    Best regards,

  4. Dear Clin,
    Thank you, these documents are very helpful.

  5. Dear Mark,

    Mr Steven Lo was convicted of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to jail yesterday, should a special force / committee be set up to consider if he is still a "fit and proper" person to be a chairman of a Club and be the member of BoD of HKFA? In Hong Kong, he has to be resigned from the Board of Directors of all the listed companies.


  6. Dear Clin,
    Thank for your comment. The Board of the HKFA is currently discussing this matter and I do not want to pre-empt any decision on a public forum. The Board and Mr Lo are keen to do what is best for football in Hong Kong.
    A fit and proper person test will be applied to the new Premier League for next season. This was a recommendation of the recent Ad hoc Committee and has been accepted by the Board.
    We are taking this matter seriously as you would expect and will deal with it expeditiously.

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