Top referees held as part of corruption drive, report says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 March, 2010, 12:00am

Two top referees have reportedly been detained as part of the mainland's crackdown on soccer-related corruption, which the top disciplinary chief insists for the sport says has spread into the women's game and youth ranks.

Lu Jun, hailed as the country's 'golden whistle', and Huang Junjie, have been out of contact since Tuesday. They are suspected of having been detained for corruption probes, according to the Beijing Times.

China Football Association (CFA) chief Wei Di confirmed yesterday that Huang had been taken away by police to help with investigations, but provided no further details.

Two other international-level referees, Zhou Weixin of Guangzhou and Shen Huangying of Hebei , also disappeared around the same time, according to the Yangcheng Evening News, suggesting a shift of the crackdown's focus to referees.

This is not the first time Lu, a respected referee with World Cup experience and a popular adviser to mainland clubs and the national team, has been involved in bribery allegations.

In 1998, he became the first man from the soccer world to be involved in a lawsuit. He sued Yangcheng Sports for reporting that he had accepted a bribe of 200,000 yuan. He won, but the court did not award him any compensation.

'People change in different environments, just as no one would have expected Nan Yong [former chief of the CFA] to have problems,' Wei said. 'This shows that the police are still carrying out [their investigation] in an orderly way, and have not halted, as people suggested.'

He said he did not think the probe would affect the upcoming season.

'Talent is the commodity China is least short of right now,' Wei said. 'Perhaps this will give other talented people the chance to referee.'

Lu and Huang are just the latest of a growing list of soccer big shots to be implicated in corruption.

Yang Yimin , former CFA vice-chairman; Zhang Jianqiang , ex-director of the association's referees' committee; and Nan were arrested by the Ministry of Public Security on Monday. They disappeared in January.

General Administration of Sport disciplinary officer Wu Qi said corruption among the top officials of the Football Management Centre - the government department overseeing the soccer industry and whose officials overlap with those of the CFA - was the root cause of tainting the whole industry. 'The national teams on all levels have problems,' Wu said.

He included the women's game and youth soccer.

Corrupt management means nobody was keeping a close eye on the clubs, Wu said. He also said gambling cartels had started tampering with soccer as early as 2000, and club side Liaoning was the first involved.

In another development, Jia Xiuquan, a coach of two national teams who had been taken by police, has been released, Xinhua said.