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SBD Global/June 14, 2012/International Football

Chinese Officials Make Sweep Through Football Organization To Halt Corruption

Two former Chinese Football Administrative Center directors Nan Yong and Xie Yalong were both sentenced to more than 10 years of imprisonment for taking bribes, according to Ma Xiangfei of the XINHUA NEWS AGENCY. Prominent players in China's only trip to the World Cup in '02 Qi Hong and Shen Si were among the four former internationals who received punishments Wednesday. Some believed that the verdicts should be a "comma rather than a full stop in the fight against match-fixing, gambling, bribery and embezzlement that ravaged" China's professional soccer leagues for more than a dozen years. Master of the Chinese game "go" Nie Weiping told Zhengzhou Evening News, "It was not a thorough campaign. Many are off the hook." Former Zhejiang Sports Chief Chen Peide agreed saying: "Will Chinese soccer be free of corruption after this houseclean? I am not that optimistic" (XINHUA, 6/13). In London, Simon Rabinovitch noted the number of former football officials, players, coaches and referees "behind bars" has reached two dozen as China has demonstrated its "boldest attempt to clean up the corruption-plagued sport." The jail sentences are the "culmination of a campaign against bribery and match-fixing" that began in '10. Nan, who held the "most powerful position in the sport in China," accepted bribes of nearly RMB1.5M ($235,000). The reputation and popularity of the Chinese Super League "crumbled after allegations into widespread match-fixing" circulated two years ago, but the "severity of the resultant crackdown has helped it regain and expand its fan base since then" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/13).  The BBC noted that in Dandong, a former national team captain was also sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail and fined RMB200,000 ($31,500). Four former national team players were sentenced in Shenyang for up to six years of jail time and fined RMB500,000 ($78,700) for taking bribes and match-fixing (BBC, 6/13). In N.Y., Alfred Cang noted Nan and Xie are the "highest-ranking officials to be sentenced since China began a nationwide campaign" in March '09 to root out graft in domestic soccer. Xinhua reported that the two men told the courts they needed to speak with their respective attorneys "before deciding whether to appeal the verdicts" (BLOOMBERG, 6/13). In Shanghai, David Barboza wrote that the CSL is trying to "strengthen itself" after a decade of scandals. Some of China's wealthiest real estate developers have purchased soccer clubs and even hired "European stars and coaches to enliven soccer," which remains a popular sport in China (N.Y. TIMES, 6/13).
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