Authorities call time-out on soccer fraud

Updated: 2012-06-14 09:57


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BEIJING - Chinese authorities jailed eight soccer officials and players on Wednesday, including two former deputy chiefs of its national soccer association and four former international players, as part of ongoing efforts to clean up the game.

The Wednesday sentencing of the officials and players marked the culmination of a campaign to eliminate graft in the Chinese professional soccer leagues, which have been afflicted with match-fixing, gambling and other illicit behavior.

Two former vice-chairmen of the Chinese soccer Association (CFA), Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, were each given sentences of 10 years and six months for taking bribes.

Under the current system, the Chinese soccer Association (CFA) runs the professional leagues and supervises its own running, which was regarded by many as the main reason for corruption.

Four former national team players and two former national team officials were sentenced by courts in the northeastern province of Liaoning for accepting bribes to fix matches for domestic games.

"The sentences demonstrate China's enhanced anti-corruption efforts and its refusal to tolerate corruption," said Zhao Binzhi, a professor at Beijing Normal University and head of criminal research committee of China.

Although soccer is popular in China, the poor performance of the country's national team has made the CFA something of a laughingstock among Chinese soccer fans.

Many have attributed the sport's downfall to continuous scandals. The first professional Chinese soccer league was not established until 1994, and it lacks the type of administrative system used by other leagues to prevent abuses of power.

A former CFA official said on condition of anonymity that clubs' rankings in leagues are directly relevant to their sponsorship and revenues in advertising.

"The root of corruption lies in the system. Chinese soccer lacks a supervisory and regulatory system," said Zhao.

Zhao said anti-corruption efforts in other areas of Chinese life will be critical in helping to rid soccer of corruption.

Soccer fraud is not endemic to China, but can be observed in countries around the globe. One notorious scandal came to light in Italy in 2006, when transcripts of recorded telephone conversations suggested that Series A league champion Juventus' general managers Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo had conversations with several Italian soccer officials to influence referee appointment.

A BBC documentary series broadcast in November 2010 alleged that three members of the Federation of International soccer Associations (FIFA) executive committee had been given bribes by a Switzerland-based marketing company.

Zhou Qingjie, deputy chief of the department of basic education at the China Foreign Affairs University and an experienced researcher of sports studies, said China's soccer scandals have provided the sport with a good opportunity to reflect on the damage done and repair it.