Record fine for China's Cui Peng

BEIJING - China midfielder Cui Peng has been slapped with a record fine and a five-match ban for elbowing an opponent during a domestic league match, in accordance with the country's new "zero tolerance" policy towards on-pitch violence.

The new boss of Chinese football, Nan Yong, is determined to change the league's reputation for violence, corruption and mediocre performances in its sixth season.

Cui, who has had his share of disciplinary problems, was handed the 30,000 yuan ($4,391) fine despite avoiding a red card for elbowing a Shaanxi player in the face while representing Shandong Luneng in the Chinese Super League (CSL) last weekend.

"The incident had a negative social impact," said a statement posted on the Chinese Football Association (CFA) website.

"All clubs must fully intensify the education of players, purify the game atmosphere, and eliminate on-pitch violence and other unethical behaviours."

Li Kai of Dalian Shide was banned for four games and fined 25,000 yuan for throwing a water bottle into the crowd during the opening round of matches two weeks ago.

"We are taking zero tolerance to any unethical behaviour to ensure the healthy development of the sport," Nan told reporters on the eve of the new season.

Television coverage of the league was suspended by the national broadcaster last November after a mass brawl during a match between Beijing and Tianjin.

Wuhan Guanggu withdrew from the CSL last October after former China captain and hard man Li Weifeng was hit with an eight-match ban for scuffling with another player on the pitch.

Cui, 21, was kicked out of the China under-23 team for playing internet games all night during the 2006 Asian Games, and has also been fined by his club for crashing his car when drunk and returning late from national duty.