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As I think I am now the only remaining link with the start-up of the Legal League, I have been asked to write something on the origins. Cider and Carlsberg have taken their toll on the memory cells over the years but luckily (and, perhaps, sadly) I still have the Minutes from the early Committee meetings which helped to fill in a lot of gaps.
I came to HK in 1990 to work in the Legal Aid Department ('LAD'). Mike Peart had arrived not long before and had formed Athletico de Wanchai ('ADW') as a social team which I joined playing friendlies when we could get pitches and opponents. One of my Chinese colleagues and I then started a social team in the Department, Kevin Browne and others did the same in the Legal Department (now Department of Justice) and some of the big legal firms already had organised teams, notably Haldanes.
In early1991, we decided that it would be a good idea to try to get a league going in order to have regular matches, based on the teams from the two Government Department and the big law firms plus ADW, who had a number of lawyers playing for them. One of these was a guy called Steve Powner who was the main organisational force behind the founding of the league. He became the first Chairman and held this position for a number of years.
The first meeting was at a pub called Caroline's Bar at the top of Wyndham St on 8th March 1991. 10 teams expressed interest in joining: LAD, Legal Dept, ADW, Masons, Linklaters, Lovells, JSM, Haldanes, Deacons and Baker & McKenzie.
The name 'Legal League' was agreed upon. It was to be initially a single fixture league with the aim of completing it over 15 weeks @ 3 matches per week, commencing in September 1991. Games were to take place, if possible, at 3 p.m. at Happy Valley. League subs were set at $2,000 per team. Steve was elected Chairman, Guy Davison of Deacons, Treasurer and Doug Fordham of Haldanes, Fixtures Secretary. All teams later gave an undertaking that at least 5 lawyers/legal employees would play in each match.
Subsequent meetings were held at the LAD offices with cans of beer optional. At the 4th meeting of the Committee in September, just before the League was due to begin, Lovells changed their name to 'Real Unsociables' and Linklaters, who had lost a lot of potential players, asked to enter instead a merged team called 'Linklaters & Danes'.
As the name suggests, this was to include a lot of 'non-legal' Danes and they could only give an undertaking to play 3 lawyers (the start of a 'slippery slope'!).
The Minutes recorded that there were misgivings expressed about admitting such a team into what was essentially a social league of lawyers,
"…who do not want to encourage teams to join the League whose standard of play is far higher than ours or whose attitude is not compatible with our' 'football for fun' philosophy".
In the event they were allowed in, went on to become the first Champions and then left to join the Yau Yee League as they thought they were too good to stay in the Legal League! They weren't missed much.
In our first game, LAD played the highly-rated Haldanes and beat them 3-1. We included a number of non- Department 'outside' players in the team, as did most of the other legal teams to a greater or lesser extent. This was objected to by Kevin Browne in particular who felt playing such 'ringers' was against the spirit of the League. As a result, Legal Department did not enter a team in the second season, to be replaced by a further non- legal team, the Spartans.
Real Unsociables won the first Cup beating Linklaters & Danes in the final. Most games were played at Happy Valley, with a few being played at Aberdeen but with no visits across the water. The reason for this 'happy' state of affairs was because someone's relative worked at the HKFA and booked the pitches for the League in some way. Prizes were given out at a Pool Party at the end of the season held at the Yacht Club, as they were for several years afterwards, which included a vote of thanks to Mr. Powner followed by a ritual ducking in the pool.
The second season saw the first of LAD's Championship wins, failing to win the 'double' by losing to JSM at Sandy Bay, due to a delayed penalty decision by John Findlay (of Cathay Pacific Pilots' Association fame), the only gweilo ref in those days- not that we're bitter or anything!