Hong Kong Stadium

Hong Kong Stadium is the main sports venue of Hong Kong. Redeveloped from the old Government Stadium it reincarnated as Hong Kong Stadium in 1994. It has a maximum seating capacity of 40,000, including 18,240 at the main level, 3,153 executive seats, 18,559 upper level seats and 48 seats for wheelchair users.

The stadium is located in So Kon Po, Hong Kong Island, a valley near Causeway Bay. Most international football matches held in Hong Kong are held at this stadium. It is also the location for the Hong Kong Sevens rugby sevens tournament. Hong Kong Stadium also hosted the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens twice, in 1997 and 2005.

History

So Kon Po was formerly the burial ground for the 1918 fire at Happy Valley Racecourse. Then the Hong Kong Government moved all the tombs to Aberdeen. The old Government Stadium was constructed by 1953 and had a capacity of 28,000. It witnessed the best times of Hong Kong football in the 60s and 70s. At the time, the stadium would be packed full of spectators when a top of the league clash happened and a red flag would be hoisted. Eager spectators without tickets would climb the hill behind the stadium to see the game.

The old Government Stadium was only partially covered, without sufficient seats or lighting systems. In the 90s, the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club proposed a reconstruction plan so that Hong Kong can have a world class sports stadium.

Even before the reconstruction, the Government Stadium was Hong Kong's most important sports venue, with a clay running track around the football field. As the focus on the design was for football only, the track went to 450m, 50m longer than standard. Numerous schools held their athletic meetings here.

1994 Re-construction and Wembley International

In the early 1990s, the Government Stadium was reconstructed into a 40,000-seat rectangular stadium. No running track was built due to the restricted land size. This forced the schools to look for alternative venues.

The stadium's management contract was won by Wembley International, a foreign subsidiary of Wembley Stadium, against strong competition, in March 1994.

From the first day there have been serious problems with the pitch. The owners of the stadium, the local urban council, were disappointed. It came under fire from local football officials, sports promoters and even Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who said, before the exhibition match between Manchester United and South China AA on 20 July 1997, "The pitch is cutting up. The surface is just sand-based and the turf doesn't hold well. Injuries can occur."

The government had hoped that the stadium could be used as a music concert venue in order to bring in more rental income. But nearby citizens complained endlessly about 'noise levels', leading to restrictions on noise levels that effectively rendered the stadium unsuitable for concerts. This reduced greatly the income levels of the stadium and the management company, Wembley, ran into financial troubles.

1998 Hong Kong government takeover

Wembley's management tenure at the stadium was abruptly terminated by the Provisional Urban Council (PUC) on 26 May 1998. PUC also asked Urban Services Department (USD) to assume temporary management of the Hong Kong Stadium and has also agreed to USD's proposals to returf the entire pitch of the Hong Kong Stadium. The fundamental issue between the parties was the care and maintenance of the stadium pitch, but also a complaint about an unauthorized bungy jump by Canadian Paul G. Boyle.

In the end, the Hong Kong government was judged to have wrongfully terminated the management agreement and had to pay over HK$20million in damages to Wembley Plc.

Hong Kong Stadium is now managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong, after the Urban Council was disbanded.

Non-sports events

Alan Tam held a concert at the Hong Kong Stadium from 22 April to 24 April 1994. It was the only solo concert held here.

The only time the venue is used for live events is the Extravaganza of China Olympic Gold Medallists celebration show for the Chinese gold medallists.

Canadian Paul G. Boyle illegally bungy jumped from the roof of the Hong Kong Stadium on the morning of Friday 24 May 1996. He was not arrested but was given a lifetime ban from all Hong Kong urban council facilities. Saturday 25 May 1996, the publicity stunt was front page news of the leading English newspaper the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as well as other leading newspapers world wide.

2008 Bledisloe Cup

On 1 November 2008, the ground became the first stadium outside of Australia or New Zealand to host a match of the Bledisloe Cup, a rugby competition between Australian and New Zealand. New Zealand won the match, 19-14.

2009 East Asian Games

The stadium was used as the final venue for both the Rugby 7s and Football tournaments of the 2009 East Asian Games. Hong Kong's rugby 7s team and football team both made the final against Japan. The rugby 7s team finished second to Japan but the football team defeated them in front of over 31,000 spectators, including Donald Tsang.

Hong Kong First Division League

South China and Kitchee had used the sports ground as the home stadium in 2009–10 season.

In 2010/11 football season, only South China use the Hong Kong Stadium as the home stadium.

2019 Rugby World Cup

In addition to the nine venues located in Japan, one venue each from Singapore and Hong Kong have also been proposed to host five matches respectively. The Hong Kong Stadium, with a capacity of 40,000, may host matches.

Full house

The first full house official football match (i.e. non-exhibition match) at the Hong Kong Stadium was the 2009 AFC Cup semi-final second leg between South China AA and Kuwait SC. This was added to in the same year by the 2009 East Asian Games football final between Hong Kong U23 and Japan U23. Although there were empty seats in the stadium, all tickets were sold or distributed.

Facilities

Hong Kong Stadium can accommodate 40,000. The spread is as below:

  • 18,256 at Main level
  • 18,507 at Upper levels
  • 3153 Suite levels
  • 53 wheelchair spaces
  • 4 minder seats

In addition, there are many refreshment kiosks inside the stadium.

Other use

The stadium was supposed to be a multi purpose entertainment and sports venue, due to its much greater capacity compared to the other popular and over used Hong Kong Coliseum, where nearly all uses are now strictly for popular entertainment. However, its open-air nature has led to noise complaints from residents in tower blocks surrounding the stadium. It has not been allowed to host entertainment events since 1999. A new multi-purpose stadium at South Eastern Kowloon is currently in the planning stage, when it is completed, the Hong Kong Stadium will be demolished to make way for housing developments.