Disgruntled Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin has asked the Hong Kong Football Association to set up an official “Arbitration Tribunal” to find out if anybody has to take the responsibility for the ongoing AFC Champions League saga.
Kitchee have accused Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) chief executive Mark Sutcliffe of committing an “administrative blunder” in allowing Eastern to become the first side from Hong Kong to compete in the top-level continental club competition in 2017 even after the Premier League champions initially withdrew from the tournament in July only to be reinstated this week. Ng will now suspend his role as a special adviser to the HKFA board to avoid a conflict of interest in the tribunal after informing association chairman Leung Hung-tak of his intention under Article 36 of the governing bodies code.
“What we should do now is to find out what has happened and what the problem is, and who should take the responsibility of this incident that has deeply hurt Hong Kong soccer and give the justice back to the clubs that have been affected,” said Ng.
“Also, we have to make sure similar incidents would not happen again in future.”
League runner-up Kitchee along with end-of-season play-off cup second place finisher Southern were initially nominated to represent Hong Kong in the AFC Champions League next year after Eastern opted out due to financial issues.
Hong Kong’s Champions League debut in doubt with AFC set to block Kitchee’s bid to replace Premier League winners Eastern
But even after Eastern changed their mind five days later, Kitchee and Southern were still put forward by the HKFA.
Continental governing body, the Asian Football Confederation, though confirmed Hong Kong would lose the automatic spot in the group stage reserved for the league champion forcing the HKFA board to change the nominations this week.
The decision was also prompted by a new ruling by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in which future Member Association rankings will depend solely on performances in club competitions.
Eastern are now set to take a place in the group stage, with Kitchee entering in the play-offs as they did earlier this year when they lost to Vietnamese opposition in their first round.
“The HKFA secretariat has made a big mistake of helping Eastern to get the licence or Kitchee can take over the place left by Eastern if the latter are not eligible,” said Ng.