Hong Kong Sixes down to eight teams

The Karp Group Hong Kong Sixes next month has been downsized after organisers refrained from going cap in hand to the government’s Mega Events Fund owing to time constraints.

“It was decided very late that the MEF would continue for a further term. By the time this was made public, we didn’t have the time to put in an application and then wait, not knowing if it would be successful or not,” Hong Kong Cricket Association president Shahzada Saleem said.

Last week the Hong Kong Golf Association announced it had asked for a record HK$16 million from the MEF towards running the UBS Hong Kong Open in November.

The MEF said it would make its decision, earliest, by the end of this month. A similar time frame would have left the Hong Kong Sixes with hardly enough time to allocate funding to optimum use.

“That is the main reason why we decided to go ahead on our own steam this time. We will make an application to the MEF next year, but having said that, we still receive government funding from its ‘M’ Mark scheme,” Saleem said.

The lack of MEF funding – last year the tournament received HK$3.5 million – has resulted in the popular event being scaled back. From three days last year it will now be played on October 27-28 at the Kowloon Cricket Club. Instead of 12 teams, there will be only eight, with the All-Stars also being scrapped.

“We had to cut our cloth accordingly,” said HKCA chairman Simon Millington. “With no MEF funding we had to act accordingly. While we will apply again in the future, right now all our focus is on putting on a great event.”

It is believed the cash-strapped HKCA also decided against MEF funds because of the stringent rules whereby a successful applicant would only receive 50 per cent of the money requested.

Last year the Sixes received HK$1.75 million up front and had to wait for more than six months for the remaining funds to be paid after MEF officials gave a positive report card on the 2011 tournament. It is still unclear if the same rules on funding exist in this new term of the MEF, which began in April and will run for five years.

The government topped up the nearly HK$50 million unused from the original fund with a further HK$150 million.

With the All-Stars not returning, the focus is back on defending champions Pakistan, who were drawn yesterday with India, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands in one group. The other group will comprise England, Australia, South Africa and Hong Kong.

In another development, organisers revealed there would be a reduced number of tickets on sale for the public – 2,000 from 3,500 last year – to make room for more corporate boxes.

“We didn’t sell out public tickets last year while at the same time we feel there is more demand for corporate hospitality packages,” Millington said. “We hope to have a new champagne tent where people can pay HK$3,000 on the Sunday and enjoy the cricket while also being pampered with champagne and great food.”

Tickets go on sale today costing HK$800 (adult) and HK$380 (children) for both days. Saturday-only tickets are available for HK$310 (HK$180), while tickets for Sunday only are HK$550 (HK$220). (South China Post)