Another raft of sentences has been handed down by courts in four cities in Liaoning as authorities continue to clean up China’s corruption-plagued professional football. Those convicted include two former heads of the league, the most senior figures from the sport to have been put on trial.
Nan Yong and his predecessor Xie Yalong were both sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in jail for accepting bribes. Former national team manager, Wei Shaohui, received a similar sentence. All three will also pay fines via the confiscation of assets. Four former players on the national team were sentenced to up to six years’ jail and fined for taking bribes and match fixing. The total of eleven convictions in this round follow 39 sentences handed down previously (full list).
The anti-corruption drive in the sport started in 2009, leading to dozens of referees, players, officials and coaches being arrested for match-fixing, bribe-taking and illegal gaming. The structure of the sport is also being reorganized to break the monopoly grip of the Chinese Football Association as regulator and operator of all aspects of the game in China. For a country that is investing money and effort into reflecting its national pride in its emerging global power in the mirror of its sporting prowess–and claims to have invented football–the confluence in the game of corruption and low sporting standing is of too great importance to the Party leadership for it to be a mere spectator, even if 2026 or even 2030, the years in which China’s leaders dream of landing FIFA World Cup, seem a long way off.