It has been widely reported in the local media that the government is considering a public housing proposal involving the site of the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre. The parcel of land on which the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre sits, was leased to Kitchee Foundation Limited on Short-term Tenancy (STT) Agreement, with the lease due for annual renewals after September, 2017.

According to the Agreement, the Government has the right to take over the property at the end of the lease, or at the end of any annual extension thereafter. There are other relevant facts about the parcel of land which should be highlighted in this discussion concerning the future use of the site. 

Firstly, the property is zoned as “Open Space”, and was originally intended for the LCSD to develop a recreational and sports facility. Unless and until the Town Planning Board re-zones the site, it cannot be used to build a housing estate as proposed. Secondly, the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre project was designed, developed and built under the policy support provided by the Home Affairs Bureau in consultation with other relevant government departments. 

The Centre was built in support of the Government policy on the future development of football in Hong Kong. The policy support given by the Home Affairs Bureau in 2011 was instrumental in making the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre a reality in the first place. Without it, Kitchee would not be able to lease the land or to receive the generous donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in 2012 and 2014. To build a major youth training centre in the private sector, aligned with the government policy to support Hong Kong football, has always been enthusiastically encouraged and supported by the Bureau. 

For as long as Kitchee runs the Centre satisfactorily, we have strong reasons to believe that the Bureau will support annual renewals of the short-term land lease for the betterment of the community. This was the reason why Kitchee agreed to invest such a significant amount of money and efforts to build and to operate the Centre even though the initial lease was only for 4 years. 

“We are confident and thankful that the Bureau continues to stand by the position of entrusting us with such a responsibility for the good of Hong Kong.”, said Ken K. Ng, the Chairman of Kitchee Foundation. With approximately HK$84 million invested in the construction of the Centre, of which HK$63 million was donated by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and HK$21 million from Kitchee, a lot of parties have worked diligently to turn the current Centre from a mere concept into a shining reality. 

The Centre is centrally-located and, more importantly, strategically located within the proximity of the “sports hub” in Sha Tin, including the Chinese University (for sports science research), the Prince of Wales Hospital (for sports science clinical services), as well as the Hong Kong Sports Institute (for sports other than football). With an eye cast towards the future, Kitchee has also been in discussion with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to develop a FIFA-accredited Sports Science Clinic at the Centre by adding a new level on top of the existing buildings. Kitchee Foundation Limited, being the custodian of these valuable resources, manages the Centre vigilantly since its opening to deliver an excellent facility to support the government policy to develop local football and has taken on the responsibility to fund the on-going operating costs.

In addition of being a training facility for Kitchee’s first team, the Centre provides free-of-charge high-quality football training programmes to young football players in the Kitchee Academy. Thirty percent of the playing sessions at the Centre is open to public use which helps to alleviate the shortage of football facilities in Sha Tin as well as in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Football Association has made free use of the Centre regularly by staging the U13 and the U14 youth league competitions at the Centre. Even the Hong Kong Representative Teams often train at the Centre. 

Moreover, Kitchee operate an Open Day League on two Sundays every month for local clubs, district sides and school teams with players between six and twelve. The Centre is also the football training facility for the Professional Footballer Preparatory Program which is an EDB-approved, HKFA-endorsed and HAB-supported secondary school program, operated jointly by Kitchee and the Tung Chi Ying Secondary School. A lot of effort and resources have been dedicated to the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre project and the benefits of having such a pioneering football centre are felt greatly by the football-loving Hong Kong public. 

There might be other land parcels in Hong Kong, often measured in hundreds of hectares that could be used to solve the city’s mounting housing issues. But the future development of Hong Kong football will undoubtedly suffer a huge setback without the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre, occupying a mere 1.5 hectare. Over the last few days, Kitchee is grateful for the overwhelming public support in the media and the support of many members of the Sha Tin District Council for the continuing operation of the Centre. 

Kitchee is willing to discuss with relevant Government departments and the Town Planning Board to reach a reasonable conclusion about the future of the property in question. Mr. Ng concluded by saying, “We trust that the development of Hong Kong football will prevail.”