FORMER Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Gordon McKie is in line to lead a major overhaul of football in Hong Kong after being confirmed as the new chief executive of the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA).
McKie flew out to Hong Kong at the weekend to firm up an offer to take over, and the HKFA confirmed last night that he has signed a three-year contract, pending a successful work permit application in the next few days, for the newly-created position.
An accountant and Rangers supporter, McKie first stepped into the world of sport when he was appointed to the chief executive’s position at Murrayfield in 2005, after a coup within Scottish rugby sparked deep concern over SRU finances and persuaded the union’s bankers, HBoS, to suggest McKie as a man to bring financial stability to the sport.
McKie’s background lay in banking and commerce, working with the TSB and then David Murray before branching out with fellow accountant Eamon Hegarty as specialists in turning around ailing businesses. The duo – Hegarty joined as the SRU’s finance director – brought a much tighter rein to Scottish rugby and were widely praised for reducing costs significantly.
However, their failure to grow the business and increasing strife with sponsors, broadcasters, supporters and SRU staff and players led to a revolt within Murrayfield over the direction in which the sport was being led and ultimately forced McKie to resign in May and Hegarty to depart in September.
The HKFA has been searching for a new figure from outside China to spearhead the government’s ‘Project Phoenix’ – a comprehensive plan to revive Hong Kong football from grassroots and clubs to the national level.
The South China Morning Post stated that McKie emerged as the main candidate for the post after Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation in the UK, the largest sports charity in the UK, turned it down. McKie was unavailable for comment but there is a Scottish rugby link to the position.
Last year the HKFA appointed URS/Scott Wilson, formerly Scott & Wilson, to carry out the reform and restructuring of football in Hong Kong under the leadership of David Davies, the former FA executive director.
The Scott Wilson Group’s former managing director of railway was Keith Wallace, a rugby supporter from Haddington, who sat on the first Scottish Rugby Council and Scottish Rugby Board formed under McKie in 2005-6, and sponsored the Border Reivers.
Wallace is now Global Business Lines Leader (Railways) with URS/Scott Wilson, specialising in corporate governance, an area in which he was involved with Scottish rugby, as well as strategy and railway infrastructure development.
The Hong Kong national team played before the former UK colony was handed over to China in 1997 and continues to enjoy a separate status in the world game despite being part of China. Currently 156th in the Fifa world rankings – level with New Caledonia and one spot behind Equatorial Guinea – Hong Kong’s highest position was 90th in 1996, but they have never qualified for a World Cup finals and not qualified for the Asian Cup finals since 1968. The HKFA currently operate a three-division club system with very few clubs owning their own ground.
McKie may quickly have some controversy to deal with as a youth player was this week arrested after allegedly trying to persuade fellow players to deliberately lose a match against a Russian youth side to profit from bets.