Scandal over match-fixing to claim three soccer clubs
Three clubs in the mainland's top soccer league would be shut down or relegated for their involvement in alleged match-fixing, mainland media reports.
Reports in the past two days have suggested the Chinese Football Association (CFA) has decided to punish three Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs suspected of rigging matches.
The reports say the registration of Qingdao Hailifeng would be revoked and it would be fined up to 200,000 yuan (HK$227,000), while both Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and the Chengdu Blades would be demoted to the country's second tier Jia League.
Gu Jianming - chairman of the Chengdu side, one of 16 squads playing in the CSL - told Xinhua the club was due to be downgraded.
'We received a phone call on Sunday afternoon and were told of the relegation decision made by a relevant department, though we have not yet got any punishment on the basis of formal documents,' Gu was quoted as saying.
He said both the Chengdu Football Association and his club would respect and comply with the decision, adding that they had decided not to lodge an appeal against such a punishment, even though he thought the decision was harsh.
But both the Guangzhou and Qingdao sides refused to swallow their penalties and sent representatives to defend their interests in Beijing.
China News Service reported the CFA had held hearings at its headquarters with regard to the three clubs allegedly involved in fixing matches yesterday afternoon, although most officials involved were tight-lipped and reporters were barred.
After an hour-long hearing, one of the Qingdao representatives said: 'We think it is not fair with regard to the punishment against us. It is too severe.'
The revocation of the Qingdao club's registration, the most serious penalty against a team since the establishment of the CSL in 2004, might result in its break-up.
Four representatives of Guangzhou Pharmaceutical declined to comment after a half-hour hearing. The club had reportedly vowed to fight the relegation decision.
China News Service reported the CFA would call a press conference at 10am today to announce the final judgment on the three clubs.
According to a China Central Television report in late January, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical had spent 1.5 million yuan to bribe numerous players of Zhejiang Greentown for a match in 2006.
Both former team manager Liu Hongwei and former star footballer Leng Bo of Qingdao Hailifeng were reportedly detained in November for their roles in underground betting and match-rigging.
In the past few months, the mainland has launched a string of far-reaching and extensive crackdowns on soccer-related corruption, including match-fixing, underground gambling and referee bribing, after President Hu Jintao and Vice-President Xi Jinping called for an improved standard on separate occasions in mid-October.