China: More clubs may be punished for matchfixing

BEIJING - More Chinese clubs are being investigated for match-fixing and will be harshly punished if found guilty, according to the new head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

Top flight clubs Guangzhou and Chengdu were relegated on Monday after being caught up in the nationwide police probe into match-fixing.

Second division (Jia A) side Qingdao were expelled from professional football. "Guangzhou, Chengdu and Qingdao are not the only clubs under investigation," Wei Di, whose predecessor Nan Yong was one of more than 20 officials arrested or detained in the probe, told the China Daily.

"Other teams are also being investigated but we will not name them until all the evidence comes out. We will impose heavy punishments once we get evidence from the police."

Despite the disruption caused by the scandal, the Chinese Super League (CSL) still hopes to launch its new season with 16 teams on March 20.

Wei's warning is a strong indication, however, that the cleaning up of the game will take priority over the commercial considerations of the CSL.

"Even if the new season is underway, we will not hesitate to punish any team and will not show any leniency," he said.

"We cannot leave the previous lessons behind. The longer we are blind to these problems, the more serious they will become."

Hangzhou and Chongqing, the two clubs relegated from the CSL at the end of last season, are likely to be restored to the top flight in place of Guangzhou and Chengdu, according to reports in local media.

Guangzhou and Qingdao will appeal their punishments, the reports said, but Chengdu, who are owned by English Championship club Sheffield United, have accepted the relegation.

"We are responsible for what happened and we are sorry for our fans," Chengdu team manager Yao Xia told the paper.

"We support the CFA's fight against matchfixing. We hope people will forgive us and we will keep working and try to fight back to the top flight next season."

The match-fixing crackdown followed calls by top Communist Party officials to clean up the professional game in China, which has long been regarded as riven with corruption and violence.


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