The name Mark Sutcliffe might not mean a lot to you but he is, in fact, an Englishman who has been working with the Hong Kong FA since 2012. However, it looks now like he will be leaving his role when his contract expires in September.
As the chairman of the FA Brian Leung Hung-tak hinted this story is correct this week but without giving too much away. As he said “We will not comment on our staff member’s contract as this is between him and the association. If there are changes, we will make a proper announcement.”
While Sutcliffe did not comment too much to the story as he just said he would explain nearer the time.
So who is Mark Sutcliffe?
He was born in Liverpool England and has been involved in football in Hong Kong since 2009. This was when he put together a report on football in the country for the government.
Leading on from this with his company the Phoenix Project producing more work about the best way to move the game forward in the country. This led to him becoming the chief executive of the FA.
How as his time with the FA been?
There have been improvements to the game in Hong Kong. Although, we have seen the Hong Kong Premier League launched in 2014 to replace the First Division as the top tier competition.
This league, however, is been put under criticism at the lack of fans it attracts.
In the last three seasons the average crowds where as follows,1,019 (2015-16), 919 (2016-17) and 954 (2017-18), these figures off the target of average crowds of 1,500.
That being the average audience the FA were hoping for with the league within five years of its launch.
In this time we have also seen two Hong Kong sides compete in the group stages of the Asian Champions League. While Eastern in 2017 failed to win a match in the group. Although Kitchee then in 2018 finished bottom of their group they did become the first Hong Kong side to win an Asian Champions League match.
A further positive to this was that the winning goal in this match was scored by a Hong Kong international Cheng Chin-Lung. Cheng then also became the first player from his country to score in the competition.
Although despite positives for the national side they are falling short of expectations. A key disappointment was as they missed out on the 2019 Asian Cup to North Korea.
While another aim was to be in the top 130 by March 2020 another plan that is looking like it will not be met.
As the country sit, 142 in the world behind its regional rivals Taiwan. It will be interesting to see if moves at the top will improve the overall game in the country or not.
It will or not but it will be interesting to find out as there is a clear passion for the game in Hong Kong with the fans awaiting more to cheer about.