Creating sustainable community based sports hubs in Hong Kong
Hong Kong, August 2015
GIFT’s first programme in the advanced city of Hong Kong included a field project which brought together two dozen young professionals from business, government and civil society. They applied their leadership skills in an experiential context to produce a business plan to develop 30-50 community-based sports hubs throughout Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is one of Hong Kong’s oldest institutions and largest community benefactors: the HKJC Charities Trust donates a yearly average of HK$1.6 billion (US$ 206 million) to the community and supports over one hundred groups and organisations.
Hong Kong is a global city and financial centre at the edge of the Pearl River Delta. A former British colony, Hong Kong operates under the “One Country, Two Systems” political structure: the city is exempt from Chinese legislation and taxation, and has full authority to guide its own economic and social development.
Hong Kong is overwhelmingly Chinese, but has significant non-Chinese populations that live in the city long-term. One “at-risk” population is Hong Kong’s South Asian minority, who lack the opportunities available to either the Chinese majority or the Western expatriate population. School dropout rates for South Asian minorities are double that of the rest of Hong Kong.
Unlike most economies, Hong Kong’s land is entirely owned by the Government. Land is not sold, but leased to private developers under long-term leases. Hong Kong has some of the highest property prices in the world, making the efficient use of land a constant problem for the HKSAR government.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons, from users Base64 and CarolSpears)
Participation in Sports in Hong Kong
The World Health Organization recommends that every person do at least thirty minutes of exercise three times a week. 60% of the world’s population fails to achieve this. In Hong Kong, that number is 83%.
A survey by the Hong Kong Institute for Education found that 73% of respondents never watched local sports, and 58% expressed no interest in local sports whatsoever.
Public sports facilities are large, expansive and affordable, but there are not enough to meet demand. For example, official guidelines state that the district of Yuen Long needs nine complexes to cover its large population; it has six.
Private sports clubs are well-maintained, but their high admission and membership fees make them inaccessible for the vast majority of Hong Kong’s population.
However, there are many sports organizations in Hong Kong that aim to provide access to sports for Hong Kong’s less privileged populations.
The Shaheen Hockey Club is a first-division hockey club in Hong Kong. Many of its athletes come from ethnic minority backgrounds, and have played in the Asian Games and other international sporting competitions.
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union manages rugby in Hong Kong, including a territory-wide rugby division, the national team, and the Hong Kong International Rugby Sevens, perhaps Hong Kong’s most prominent sporting event.
Operation Breakthrough was launched by the Tuen Mun District Police Force in 1996. Youth are mentored and coached by police officers, professional coaches, and volunteers. Participants report higher self-esteem and are better integrated with society.
Finding Space in Hong Kong
Noncommercial land presents a huge opportunity to construct affordable and necessary community facilities, putting unused land towards a social purpose.
The Hong Kong Government makes non-commercial land available in short-term tenancies at nominal rates. Some private developers, such as the Link REIT, have also made spaces available for community purposes, such as the Link Community Sports Academy and the Wong Tai Sin Football Park, placed on top of a parking garage.
Working in Practice: The Shaheen Hockey Club
Shaheen engages in many sports programmes targeting the community, including training in coaching, umpiring, and videography alongside its youth training programmes.
Shaheen is currently building a facility on a small site in Woosung Street in Yau Ma Tei. The Hong Kong Government offered an unused “sitting-out” area to Shaheen for a nominal rate under its Short-Term Tenancy scheme.
The modular design uses old shipping containers to build a mini-hockey pitch, changing rooms, office space and a small gym.
Building a Solution
The proposed SportLight Trust will fund the construction of 30-50 sports hubs throughout Hong Kong, and select operators to run affordable and community-based sports programmes.
Through meetings with government, community and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions amongst themselves, participants learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views to transform concepts and theories into realities on the ground.
The GLP uses real-world field projects to hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Participants challenge business models to create new ideas to solve practical issues.
Participants developed a business plan that outlined the SportLight Trust; below are a few excerpted slides from the full report.
The SportLight Trust is responsible for finding non-commercial land and sourcing the funding for construction. It also selects operators according to a set of social and financial criteria, and oversees the entire network of sports facilities.
Operators are free to manage hubs according to their own requirements, so long as they abide by some obligations toward pricing and community usage. Operators pay a management fee and share half of their surplus with SportLight, which helps to cover the Trust’s operating expenses. This frees SportLight to use donations and sponsorship income toward capital expenditure and network expansion.
The SportLight Trust helps to overcome the information costs faced by individual sports associations in finding public and private space. Sports associations may not have the resources to find noncommercial land and put together a proposal; by acting as the middleman between landowners and sports associations, SportLight can handle these costs.
There is no reason why a similar structure could not support other social and community activities. A similar management trust can help fund a network of community-based theaters, studios, libraries, or recreation centers built on vacant and noncommercial land.
The Nam Cheong Model
The group explored several sites in Nam Cheong, in the district of Sham Shui Po.
Sham Shui Po is one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong, with a median monthly income of HK$18,000 (US$2,322), compared to an average of HK$23,500 (US$3,000) for the whole territory, and an average of HK$35,000 (US$4,500) in Central and Western District—the most prosperous district.
Two sites were evaluated. Site A was between two roads, where Site B lay underneath a flyover. While Site A was chosen for its novelty and greater room, both sites are feasible for a sports facility.
The densely-populated area of Nam Cheong means that a single facility can serve upwards of 20,000 people, who live in two major public housing estates only a five minute walk from Site A.
The concept, generously provided pro bono by local architects LWK & Partners, has two multipurpose sports halls, changing facilities, administrative offices and spaces open to the general public at all times.
Public Forum at Olympic House
The participants presented their findings and recommendations to a crowd of government, business and civil society leaders at Olympic House.
Leo Chan, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department of the HKSAR Government
“From the business sector to civil society, these diverse backgrounds...enable different ideas to blossom, dialogue to occur, and ultimately, cooperation and collaboration to take place”
Margaret Fung, MTR Corporation
“The experience was unlike traditional executive training and I can definitely leverage what I have learned in my career development.”
Yiksing Yeung, China Light and Power
"The programme has been an incredible journey of self-discovery...inspiring us to take on more leading and engaging roles in our daily lives - with our families, workplace and society at large."
For more information, please contact Karim Rushdy.