Rovers kick off Wirral welcome for Hong Kong newcomers

Teamwork between Tranmere Rovers FC and a Wirral-based community hub is creating life-changing opportunities for hundreds of Hong Kong newcomers who now call Merseyside their home.

The partnership between the club and BNOhub, run by Roger Hind and his Hong Kong-born partner Lucy Wu, is reaching out to new arrivals from the former British colony as they relocate here via the British National Overseas (BNO) visa scheme.

Their top priorities are to be part of the British way of life and contribute to the local community. Meanwhile, creating access points for them to community activity has become central to the club’s mission which, along with BNOhub, recently provided a special Matchday Experience for the resettled families.

The Tranmere game against Crewe was a victory on and off the pitch at Prenton Park where they connected with local fans and the club’s community network. A formal welcome and “bridge-building” Life in Merseyside event is being held at the club in December.

Between them, Tranmere and BNOhub are now at the forefront of providing resources, guidance and support to the Hong Kong newcomers making permanent homes here.

Newcomers to Merseyside from Hong Kong enjoy a live Tranmere Rovers football experience at Prenton Park

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios sees this relationship as an important part of its commitment to the local community, not just Wirral but the wider Liverpool City Region.

He said, “We’re a local club with an international outlook and strong community focus. It was therefore important we made the new arrivals both welcome and aware of the community duties we take very seriously.

“For many, live football was a new experience and we pride ourselves on the accessibility we can also offer through numerous provisions.”

Under the new visa route, means-tested Hong Kongers can apply to live, work and study in the UK, serving as a pathway to citizenship over a five-year period.

Liverpool and Wirral have become popular places to put down roots – business and employment rates are buoyant and expanding, there are good motorway links plus a nearby airport, while education and crime rates show positive statistics compared with other regions.

Other practical attractions identified have been Merseyside’s transport network with its underground rail network and ferry service.

Of major importance for the new Merseysiders is seeking employment, finding accommodation to rent or buy and, for those with children, choosing schools.

Roger explained, “More than anything they are eager to adopt a British way of life, with a strong desire to add to the community, not take from it. They have come here after doing an immense amount of research and are ready to join in and get on.”

Lucy said, “They bring with them skills, qualifications and experience across a wide range of disciplines plus a strong work ethic and want to integrate, to be part of the local communities they now call home. I benefited from Roger’s local knowledge when relocating; however, many are arriving here for the first time and don’t have this support.”

The pair both added, “As it can be for locals, property buying or renting can be a trying landscape to navigate while finding jobs that match experience and building a credit score are also a priority.”

Aaron Luk and Winnie Lee

Many of the new arrivals feel an affinity with the UK and a love for traditions – couples like Aaron Luk and Winnie Lee who arrived here in September.

Aaron worked in marketing while in Hong Kong, Winnie had a job in accountancy and both found their high-pressured 12-hour-plus work environment left them no time to experience and enjoy any leisure time.

Aaron said, “All we seemed to do was work which left us totally exhausted when we got home late in the evening. There was no time for friends, hobbies or interests outside work.

“We are so happy to be here – it’s like a new beginning and look forward to a different type of work/life balance. We’ve been deeply moved by the welcoming nature of Merseyside people and want to make a valued contribution to the community however we can.”

Aaron has already joined his local library, constantly watches BBC news to improve his English, reads the newspapers and is planning to take up tennis and go hiking in the Wirral and North Wales countryside. Winnie is now looking forward to meeting friends on her first European trip to Spain.

Both Aaron and Winnie, although professionally qualified, are planning to either get factory jobs or work in one of the major discount stores where they can improve their language skills and simply experience day-to-day life here.

In a year or so, they say, they will feel better equipped to take on the challenges of other jobs or set up a business.

Aaron and Winnie will be attending the bridge-building event Life in Merseyside at Prenton Park on Thursday, December 1 when they will join other BNO arrivals in meeting businesses and organisations with expert knowledge of employment, education, housing, social mobility and community initiatives throughout Liverpool City Region.

Supporters of the event include Liverpool-headquartered international law firm Hill Dickinson, BNO specialists KPI Recruitment, Wirral Credit Union, Calday Grange Grammar School, and Bidston Avenue Primary School.

Image: Roger Hind and Lucy Wu (centre) with Hong Kong families at Prenton Park for the Tranmere Matchday Experience

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