Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Aiming High – Together 力爭上游 萬眾一心

Aiming High – Together

I would like to start with an apology. It has been a while since I wrote a blog, for which I am sorry. As I’m sure you know there have been many time-consuming but important issues to deal with over the last few months.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the next few months as far as the future of football in Hong Kong is concerned. The current three-year funding cycle linked to Project Phoenix comes to an end in October. In a previous blog I set out what I believe has been achieved so far on our long journey to transform football so I won’t go into detail again. Suffice to say I believe we have dramatically enhanced the governance, management and organization of the HKFA which has laid the foundation for positive benefits for the sport itself. There are plenty of signs of improvement. However, no-one would deny that progress has been slow in certain areas and that there is still a long way to go.

So this is crunch time. In May the Government’s Football Task Force will meet to consider whether it will recommend extending the funding given to football beyond October. Obviously this is a pretty fundamental decision. I personally do not want to consider what will happen if the answer is ‘no’. All of the good work we have been doing and the foundations we have laid for future improvements will have been in vain. I prefer to think positively and that the funding will be extended. In fact as has been quoted in the press, I believe we need even more funding if football is going to reach its potential.

The use of public money requires justification and accountability. Not only must we demonstrate that the money spent so far has been effective but more importantly we must set out very clearly what any future funding will be used for and what outcomes we would expect to deliver. In other words, we need a plan, a strategy, a document that states unambiguously where we are now, where we should be and how we are going to get there. This is where Aiming High – Together comes in. I attach to this blog the Executive Summary of our draft 5-year strategic plan. I will be presenting this together with a funding proposal to the Football Task Force. I hope to make the case for football and to persuade the powers that be that we need more funding for at least the next five years.

The strategy is called Aiming High – Together intentionally because it is a plan for football in Hong Kong and not just for the HKFA. We need all stakeholders to ‘buy-into’ this plan and to work together to deliver its objectives. It is not something that the HKFA should or can embark on in isolation. We do not expect the Government to pay for everything – that would be unrealistic. However we will be hoping to justify an increase in public funding commensurate with the aims of the strategy but we will also be seeking alternative additional funding from charitable and commercial sectors.

I hope you enjoy reading the Summary of Aiming High – Together and I am sorry that right now it is only available in English. It will be translated into Chinese now it has been agreed in a final draft form. As ever, I would welcome any comments and feedback and if anyone is interested, the full report can be made available on email but I must warn you it is 150 pages long!

I would like to thank my colleagues who have helped me prepare this strategy and I commend it to you. As I said at the start of this blog, the future of football in Hong Kong will be determined in the next few months. I would urge anyone who cares about football to read this strategy and to get involved in its delivery. Please get behind what we are trying to do and let’s all aim high, together.

Please click on the Summary of Aiming High – Together for more details.

Mark Sutcliffe CEO April 2014





在公帑的運用上,受惠者必須講求公正和負責任,不但我們必須明確交待財務支出的所有細節,同時亦需要清楚列出未來撥款的去向以及所預期的成效;換句話說,我們需要一個計劃、一套策略、一份文件,它能夠毫不含糊地列明我們目前所身處的環境、應該往哪裡走以及如何抵達目的地,因此《力爭上游 萬眾一心》(中文譯名)才會面世!在此,本人將足總向足球專責小組匯報的五年策略計劃書的精華摘要附錄在本文中,並將會聯同申請撥款計劃書作一併呈交。本人希望能夠為本地足壇提出合理訴求,說服有關決策部門以證明在未來五年內,我們需要尋求更多撥款支持。

該份計劃書有意名為《力爭上游 萬眾一心》(中文譯名),全因這是一個關於香港足球發展的計劃,而非單純足總本身,我們需要所有球圈相關人士「認同」該計劃並共同攜手發放其概念。不要誤以為足總應該或能夠孤單作戰,亦不能冀望政府能夠為我們支付一切—這是不切實際的,然而我們仍盼望政府能夠因應該計劃的目標而公正地增加相應的撥款,當然我們亦需要進一步尋求從其他商業機構和慈善團體中的額外財政援助。

本人希望諸位能夠享受閱讀《力爭上游 萬眾一心》的精華摘要,惟目前暫時只有英文版本,而中文譯本將會在英文正式版落實後正式面世。一如以往,本人對任何意見及回饋無任歡迎;假若閣下願意,亦可以透過電子郵件方式索閱該計劃書的完整版本,惟篇幅達一百五十頁之多!

本人由衷感謝幫我預備該計劃書的足總同事,特此加以表揚。在本文開首經已提及,香港足球的未來將會在不久的數月內決定,本人希望各位關心本地足壇的朋友們細心閱讀該計劃書,並共同將其信念傳達開去,大家務必與足總攜手並肩,能夠實踐「力爭上游 萬眾一心」的願景。
請按此瀏覽《力爭上游 — 萬眾一心》的精華摘要




  1. Dear Mark,

    The HKFA efforts are much appreciated. The issue of funding solely depends on the long-term vision of the Football Task Force as Aiming High will have difficulty in producing many significant immediate results. I pray that the Football Task Force will be convinced that patience will eventually yield favorable outcomes.

    I feel that in addition to the impressive plans outlined for grassroots growth, I believe we need an immediate injection of talent at all levels of the national teams, both men and women. We need players that are immediately able to raise the level of play.

    I ask HKFA to increase efforts to search the globe for eligible footballers to play for HKFA youth and senior national teams.

    Under FIFA Statutes (Application of the Statutes, Article III Eligibility to play for representative teams):
    a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
    b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
    c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
    d) He has lived continuously on the territory of the relevant Association for at least two years

    All of these conditions require that they applied to the relevant Association before their 21st birthday) or have never played in an official FIFA international competition (non-friendly).

    We need to look abroad to find quality players that would look to have opportunity to play at an international level.

    One observation you have made on a few occasions is that youth players have limited time and competition. Fewer touches on the ball, fewer chances to develop into creative, athletic footballers. While invoking change at home in HK, also look to places where eligible youth players are already at a very high level of play and athleticism.

    For example, Jürgen Klinsmann has a son that I believe is eligible to play for Germany, US, AND Taiwan. The US Men's National team which Klinsmann manages, has 4 foreign-born players that have helped the team get to its current FIFA ranking of 13. This has raised the level of play which is quite infectious, causing all players to take their experience back to their clubs.

    There are children and grandchildren of Hong Kong people abroad that would love the opportunity to play and represent their family's homeland. I hope to see the HKFA actively scout and recruit these players, to benefit the short and long-term of HK Football.

  2. Dear David,
    Thank you for your comments. Because of Hong Kongs status as a SAR of China, the eligibility criteria for playing for the representative teams are somewhat different to other countries. Unlike other countries anyone looking to represent Hong Kong has to rescind their original nationality so they can get a Hong Kong passport. The concept of 'dual-nationality' doesn't exist in the same way here. This puts us at a disadvantage. There are examples of players doing this, so it is possible but it requires time and a big commitment.
    Other countries have it much easier and I am aware of the big progress being made by Philippines, Guam etc by scouting players living in another country that fulfil the FIFA criteria. In our case we would not only have to find the players but also persuade them to give up the other nationality.
    We are trying to address this anomaly now because we are certainly disadvantaged. On a more positive note we should be targeting mainland Chinese players because they can be eligible after fulfilling a two-year residency period.
    It should be easier to find these players too. International scouting can be resource intensive.

    1. Dear Mark,
      Yes, mainland players would be the lowest hanging fruit. I worry that it may not be a significant injection of talent.

      According to the Nationality Law of PRC implementation in HKSAR (, the PRC does not recognize other foreign passports of HKSAR passport holders, but they may keep those foreign passports. However, they would not be able to benefit from foreign consular privileges. This is the basic loophole that many HK "dual-nationals" use and I personally know of many HKSAR passport holders that possess other foreign valid passports. I have friends that were born in USA, with US Passport, but have recently received an HKSAR passport. I understand that this is a complicated process, and that HKFA resources are limited.

      With regards to scouting, I know of some that would be happy to help with developing the process and implementing the search in the United States (especially on the women's side). Perhaps the HKFA can reach out to supporters residing in other countries.

      I apologize for side-tracking the larger conversation. I truly believe that the Football Task Force will ultimately decide funding based on probability of success. I'm almost certain that 'success' in most people's minds will be in terms of the National team winning games.

      Best Regards with my Support,

  3. Mark,

    Thank you for another insightful blog post and I sincerely hope the funding for Hong Kong football is extended beyond October.

    As you mentioned the full 'Aiming High - Together' report can be made available on email, I would definitely be interested in viewing it in more detail. Is it possible for it to get sent to me at


  4. Dear Amro,
    I have emailed the report to you. I hope you enjoy reading it. As ever your feedback would be welcomed.

  5. Mark,

    As always, a very interesting blog post. I'd be very interested to read the full report if you'd be so kind as to forward it on to

    Thank you,

    Jamie (A very happy Tai Po FC fan!)

  6. Dear Jamie,
    Thanks for your interest. A copy is winging its way to you through the ether. Personally I am pleased that Tai Po has an opportunity to join the Premier League. The way they were relegated last season was unfortunate and they are one of the more positive and forward looking clubs in Hong Kong.

  7. Hi Mark,

    Very interested in reading the report. Would you mind to send a copy to me?


  8. Dear Bruno,
    Yes, I will send you a copy. Thanks for your interest.

  9. Hi Mark,
    I would like a full copy as well. Would you be so kind to forward one to me at
    david AT davidma DOT net?

  10. David,
    Can you forward your email address to me so I can send you the document. The address on the Blog doesn't seem to be correct.
    My address is

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