Sports Recruitment International

Case Study: Hong Kong Football Association

Hong Kong Football AssociationClient: Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)
Position: National Head Coach
Completed: January 2012


Following a Government-led review, a blueprint for change entitled "Develop – Deliver" was agreed by the HKFA Board and included the recommendation of a new organisational structure to lead football through a long-term programme of development from grassroots through to elite performance. Central to this was the recruitment of a world class Chief Executive Officer and National Head Coach.

HKFA General Secretary Vincent Yuen appointed Sports Recruitment International (SRI) to recruit these two high- profile roles. "SRI was appointed based on the quality of their team and their truly global reach," explained Yuen.

"They have an unrivalled reputation for senior search assignments in the sporting arena and a through understanding of our requirements. The importance of these two positions to the future development of football in Hong Kong can not be over-stated. It was imperative that we worked with a world-class executive search firm with impeccable sporting credentials and we believe we have found that in SRI".

Purpose of the Position

The National Head Coach is accountable for the success of the Hong Kong Representative teams in international competition as measured by podium performance and FIFA / AFC rankings.

Duties of the role included:

  • To be responsible for selecting, training and preparing the Hong Kong senior and age- group representative teams for international matches, competitions and championships.
  • To ensure that national and age-group teams perform to the top of their ability on the pitch and behave in an exemplary and professional manner off the pitch
  • To select, train and supervise a team of Assistant Coaches and to oversee all support staff e.g. physios, nutritionalists, etc.
  • To work with the Technical Director to set the performance strategy for the representative teams, determine the curriculum and develop coordinated coaching programmes that achieve the strategy

Candidate experience required included:

  • The successful candidate must have proven experience and success in football management and specifically coaching
  • In possession of current coaching qualifications equivalent to UEFA ‘A’ licence and / or FIFA ‘Pro’ licence
  • Preferably, the successful candidate will have a track record of success internationally
  • Well developed leadership and management skills with a track record of creating a culture of high performance
  • The ability to coach and inspire the most talented players to world class standards Evidence of Delivery of Coaching Programme

Process adopted

  • Full job & person specification generated by SRI and approved by HKFA
  • Target list of international candidates to approach generated by SRI and approved by HKFA before initial approaches were made
  • Created an international marketing strategy across multiple platforms including print and online
  • Candidate generation phase through out international client & candidate network in addition to actively approaching candidates from the target list
  • Upon completion of the candidate generation phase, the top candidates were interviewed in person by SRI, interview notes and shortlist submitted to interview panel at HKFA
  • Second round interviews took place with the top 5 candidates with SRI in attendance to facilitate and manage the process 
  • Through SRI, interview feedback was generated from all candidates and processed by the HKFA to make a final decision
  • Ernie Merrick (former Manager of Melbourne Victory) joined the HKFA as National Head Coach in on 6th January 2012

Feedback from HKFA - CEO Gordon McKie

“Sports Recruitment International (SRI) were instrumental in securing the appointment of Ernie Merrick as National Head Coach for the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA). SRI’s technical knowledge and international network resulted in a very strong long list of candidates being presented to the Board, who demonstrated a range of skills, technical abilities, experience and successful track-record.

"Having been recently appointed as Chief Executive Officer, SRI assisted me greatly in identifying a number of candidates who met the criteria as well as demonstrating the personality to manage the footballing and cultural challenges of this high-profile role. SRI managed the project with a high degree of confidentiality and handled all Agent enquiries on our behalf, greatly reducing the administrative pressure on our Association.

"I would recommend SRI on the basis of their professionalism and ability to work at pace in a confidential manner in the complex and fast moving world of high performance football.”