19 March 2019
Hong Kong government plans fresh funding for a project aimed at promoting football sport, despite lack of progress on a previous initiative. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong government plans fresh funding for a project aimed at promoting football sport, despite lack of progress on a previous initiative. Photo: HKEJ

Govt may pour another HK$125 mln into ‘Project Phoenix’

A government department has recommended the injection of HK$125 million into the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) over the next five years to help the association implement a long-term plan to enhance the standards of the sport in the city.

The government has, since November 2011, provided HK$54.8 million to HKFA for implementing Project Phoenix, which initially was a three-year initiative. However, the project drew much criticism and was seen by many observers as yielding little progress.

Some lawmakers had announced that they will no longer support further funding for the project, but a division dedicated to football development under the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) has now defended the funding recommendations by outlining a number of achievements, Apple Daily reported Tuesday.

The achievements cited included the unprecedented qualifications of the Hong Kong Under 16 Representative Team at the 2014 Asia Football Confederation (AFC) U16 Championship in Thailand, and the launch of the Hong Kong Premier League (HKPL).

According to an agreement between the government and the HKFA for the funding, 19 parameters have been mapped out to gauge the returns.

Among the targets set were opinion feedback from at least 1,000 match goers during a tournament, boosting the page views of the HKFA official website from 400,000 last year to 600,000 in the 2019-2020 season, and taking the total number of “Likes” for the HKPL Facebook page from 9,000 last year to 18,000 in 2018-2019 season. At present, the page has 12,000 “Likes”.

HKPL club Eastern Salon director Peter Leung said what really matters is the number of people buying tickets to watch the matches, and that the number of Facebook Likes is secondary.

Leung is supportive of the government’s initiatives to promote football, but he questioned how the money will be spent.

“HKFA used to have a general secretary, now they have a CEO,” Leung said sarcastically. He noted that the Hong Kong representative team has slipped on the international ranking since the launch of the Project Phoenix and that the only positive impact of the project was the creation of more jobs at HKFA.

HKFA director Pui Kwan-kay also admitted that the implementation of the Project Phoenix has not helped boost match-goer numbers over the last three years.

Lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, who had also been owner of football teams such as Rangers and Happy Valley, said he has been opposing further funding since the beginning of last year.

He said he cannot understand why government funding is so focused on football when Hong Kong has more than 70 sports projects. In other comments, Lam said it is a joke to rate the success of a professional sport program based on the number of Facebook “Likes”.

According to HAB, the funding decision was made by the Sports Commission, an official advisory body to the government on sports development in Hong Kong.

The chairman of the Sports Commission is Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing, while the vice chairman is Timothy Fok, who is the president of the HKFA.

Victor Hui, a Sports Commission member, is a top official at the local HKPL team South China, while another member Chau How-chen is a special consultant for HKFA.

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