China fines club, issues bans over match fixing
BEIJING (AP) — The Shanghai club that was briefly home to former Chelsea forward Didier Drogba has been stripped of its 2003 league title and fined $160,000 as part of a new round of sanctions aimed at stamping out match fixing in the Chinese Super League.
The Chinese Football Association also banned 33 officials and players for life at the conclusion of a three-year investigation into corruption in the CSL, the Xinhua News Agency and other state media reported Tuesday.
Among those banned were former association chiefs Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, who were each sentenced last year to 10 ½ years in prison.
Shanghai Shenhua was also docked six points for the coming season as part of its punishment for fixing the result of a game against Shanxi Guoli on its way to the 2003 title. Another 11 clubs were fined up to $160,000 and docked between three and six competition points for previous incidents of bribery and match fixing.
Shenhua spokesman Ma Yue did not immediately return calls or text messages seeking comment, and it was not clear if the club would appeal its punishment.
Shenhua’s primary investor, computer games mogul Zhao Jun, wrote on his Twitter-like Weibo microblog that the club suffered from “internal problems.”
“The entire city is upset at the punishment. We all belong to Shenhua, no matter whether in past or present, no matter how difficult or how much we have been wronged, we will stand and bear it.”
Also handed life-long bans were former deputy association head Yang Yimin, 2002 World Cup referee Lu Jun and four former Chinese internationals — Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin and Li Ming — all of whom were earlier sentenced to up to six years jail for bribe taking. Violations cited by the CFA included match fixing, bribe taking and receiving, and gambling — some of them dating back a decade or more, Xinhua said.
Football-mad China has lately made some progress in reining in rampant corruption that many blame in part for the national team’s poor international results. Last year’s sentences were seen as a warning that the legal system was serious about punishing violators, and fans have started returning to stadiums to watch their favorites in the 16-team CSL.
However, a recent push to attract big-name international talent has raised questions, both about the ability of teams to pay the huge salaries and the effect that is having on the development of local talent.
Drogba signed to Shenhua with much fanfare last May, but left in January to join Galatasaray of Istanbul, citing the Chinese club’s failure to pay wages.
Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report from Shanghai.