Results of soccer matches late in December last year has led to investigations of alleged match-fixing. In separate incidences, Tuen Mun Sports Club and Happy Valley are embroiled in the allegations, with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) becoming involved in the latter team’s investigation.
In late December, the Hong Kong Football Association became aware of suspicions attracted by the result of the Tuen Mun versus Yokohama (HK) game—an own goal in the last minute by Tuen Mun’s defender Li Ming resulted in Yokohama winning the game 2-1.
The HKFA announced that it would set up an inquiry panel to investigate the incident before announcing any actions to be taken.
In the meantime, Tuen Mun Sports Club deregistered the player involved, but said that it had subsequently lost contact with him as he was believed to have travelled to the mainland.
Tuen Mun Sports Club also announced that it was intending to de-register its whole playing roster and re-register a new playing roster, though they did not announce whether this could include any of those de-registered. The HKFA reported this week that they had not yet received any de-registrations of Tuen Mun’s original roster.
Tuen Mun Sports Club also said that it had decided to take back management of the team from the sponsor.
Happy Valley Investigated by ICAC
In a more significant development this week, several players from Happy Valley were detained by the ICAC for questioning over alleged match-fixing related to their Dec 21 5-1 loss to Kitchee. This came after Sunday’s (Jan 5) 5-0 loss to Sunray Cave JC Sun Hei at Tsing Yi Sports Ground.
It is believed that the ICAC visited a number of the Happy Valley players’ homes in follow up investigations after the players’ release on Sunday night. It appears likely that the ICAC will interview more Happy Valley players and officials as the investigation continues with individuals implicated, but their involvement as yet inconclusive.
Should the ICAC find that those investigated have a case to answer for they may face criminal charges with jail the likely punishment if found guilty.
Meanwhile, given the ICAC investigations, the HKFA have decided to suspend their own panel of inquiry until after those of the ICAC were complete. If found guilty, those involved in match-fixing may face hefty fines and/or lifetime worldwide bans as decided by HKFA and/or FIFA.
HKFA Chief Executive Mark Sutcliffe also released a statement saying that: “The HKFA takes any suggestion of corruption in local football very seriously. However, it is also important to uphold the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and therefore we are not jumping to any conclusions regarding these investigations. We believe that the ICAC is the most appropriate organisation to investigate these matters and we will cooperate fully with them. Corruption is a threat to the integrity of football not just in Hong Kong, but across the world. It must be eradicated and the HKFA will play its part in doing so.”
The HKFA also faces the possibility that one, or both, of the teams currently under these suspicions may have difficulty in completing some of their scheduled games in the immediate future and may need to decide how to revise the schedule.
Despite the controversy, the action returned to the pitch last weekend and at the conclusion of the first matches of 2014, Kitchee has strengthening their position at the top of the HKFA Championship standings.
Meanwhile, USRC maintain their Yau Yee League lead.
Kitchee took advantage of a pre-holiday win in the HKFA Championship to extend their lead at the top of the First Division standings, while their main competitors faltered in the new year further strengthened their position.
In the Saturday Dec 21 game, Kitchee won 5-1 against Happy Valley. Kitchee opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Alexander Akande broke forward and passed to Juan Belencoso to score.
A Belencoso header and an Akande shot gave Kitchee a 3-0 half time lead. Kitchee scored a fourth in the 65th minute when Daniel Cancela scored. After 67 minutes Happy Valley’s Juliuss Akosah reduced the deficit. Finally, Jordi Tarres converted an 89th minute penalty for Kitchee to win 5-1.
This allowed Kitchee to open up a 5-point lead over South China and a 6-point lead over Sun Pegasus in the standings.
While Kitchee had a bye last weekend, Saturday (Jan 4) saw Sun Pegasus fall to a 1-0 defeat against Citizen, the game being settled in the 13th minute when Stefan Pereira finished from Yuto Nakamura’s pass.
Sunday (Jan 5) saw South China play out a 0-all draw against Eastern Salon to be 4-points behind Kitchee having played one game more. Sun Pegasus are a further 2-points behind having played the same number of games as Kitchee.
Most lower HKFA teams have been involved in a few weeks of Junior Shield Cup rounds with the winners proceeding to next week’s Final.
Yau Yee League
The Yau Yee League resumed on Sunday (Jan 5) after the holiday break with the Round 13 games.
In Division One, USRC maintained their 5-point lead in the standings over Wanderers after their 2-1 win over Albion; while Wanderers won their derby with Colts by the same score.
In Division Two, as Mobsters were held to a 1-all draw by ANP, The Store House Hearts won 5-2 against CSOB to move back to the top of the division on 27 points – one point ahead of Mobsters, who are tied in second with Corinthians, who had a 1-0 win over Boca Seniors. Azurri move up to fourth on 25 points after a 1-0 win against GGFC.
In Division Three, WYFC06 on 33 points stay 2-points ahead of HKU70’s after the former’s 3-0 win over HOB and the latter’s 5-1win over University.
In Division Four, IES’s bye meant that they stay 6-points ahead of Power 22, who also had a bye.