The end of October marked a somber note in Vietnamese football, as the Vietnamese Football Federation (VFF) has expelled Than Quang Ninh from the upcoming 2022 V.League 1 season. The Hero Miner had been in financial turmoil ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and their expulsion from the league’s upcoming season serves as a death sentence to the club unless a timely intervention could save them.
Quang Ninh’s financial woes have been well-documented in recent times. There were reports of players going on strike due to unpaid wages and bonuses, club sponsor Vinacomin halting their funding of the club due to the ongoing pandemic, and club owner Pham Thanh Hung attempting to hand over ownership of the club to the Quang Ninh People’s Committee to no avail.
Thanh Hung also went public with the admission that the entire club has been funded with his own pocket money throughout the pandemic and he’s unable to bear the club’s expenses much further without any outside help.
However, despite this, the Hero Miner still managed to defy the odds and finish within the top half of the V.League 1 table in their last two seasons. 2020 saw Quang Ninh being in the title race down until the penultimate round of the season, while the 2021 season saw Quang Ninh finishing third in the table prior to the league’s abolishment.
In the end, Quang Ninh’s financial troubles caught up with them, and at the end of October, when the VFF released a list of V.League clubs licensed for both domestic and continental competitions, Quang Ninh’s name was absent from the list.
The Hero Miner has been expelled from the Vietnamese football pyramid.
Prior to Quang Ninh’s expulsion, Thanh Hung has pleaded for the Quang Ninh People’s Committee to intervene and save his club, however, the committee refused to invest further into the club, with the Quang Ninh Department of Culture and Sports stating that as a professional football club, Quang Ninh should be independent of any budget from the local government. The funds that the committee had given to Quang Ninh for the 2021 season was the one and only time that the Quang Ninh local government would intervene for the club.
Additionally, a number of enterprises within Quang Ninh Province have declared their interest in taking Quang Ninh off Thanh Hung’s hands, however, they refused to shoulder the mounting debts that the Hero Miner has accumulated.
With the local government giving no further help and without anyone willing to take the club and their debts off his hands, Thanh Hung could only watch as the VFF chalked Quang Ninh off the list of clubs set to participate for the 2022 season, the federation citing Quang Ninh’s failure to meet financial, infrastructure, and personnel criteria as the reason behind their expulsion.
Should Quang Ninh wish to participate in Vietnamese football again, they would have to start in the lowest tier of the pyramid and work their way back up to the V.League 1.
“I’m no longer the owner and the sponsor of Than Quang Ninh Football Club,” Thanh Hung told Tuoi Tre, “We’re currently handing back the facilities that the Quang Ninh local government had given to the club and the team is now underneath the local government’s supervision. Not being able to participate in the V.League is quite upsetting, but we have no choice.”
Quang Ninh’s exit meant that the 2022 V.League 1 season will only be contested by 13 teams instead of the usual 14, with the VFF opting against appointing any other team from the second-tier V.League 2 to replace them – most likely due to the 2021 V.League 2 season being abolished as well at the same time as the V.League 1.
“Quang Ninh’s time has ran out,” said a VFF official as quoted from VNExpress, “There will be only 13 teams in the 2022 V.League 1 season.”
Making their V.League 1 debut in 2014, Quang Ninh’s 7-year tenure was marked with consistent top-half finishes, title challenges, a Vietnamese National Cup title in 2016, and a Vietnamese Super Cup title in the same year. The Hero Miner also participated in two AFC Cup campaigns in 2017 and 2020, taking on the likes of Home United (Singapore), Yadanarbon FC (Myanmar), Bali United (Indonesia), Ceres-Negros (Philippines), and Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng (Cambodia).
A number of players have donned the iconic blue Quang Ninh jersey during their tenure in the V.League 1, such as Mac Hong Quan, Nguyen Hai Huy, Nghiem Xuan Tu, Eydison, Jermie Lynch, Pham Nguyen Sa, Vu Minh Tuan, Huynh Tuan Linh, Ramon Rodrigues, and Geoffrey Kizito (Tran Trung Hieu).
Quang Ninh’s expulsion and demise meant that they’ve become the latest V.League 1 club to shut up shop in the league’s history, joining a list that includes the likes of Hoa Phat Ha Noi, Navibank Sai Gon, Sai Gon Xuan Thanh, and XM The Vissai Ninh Binh.