Tag Archives: Nan Yong

Former Top Football Officials Convicted Of Corruption

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.

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China’s Black Whistles Get Jail Time

Lu Jun , one of the 36 referees for the 2002 World Cup, takes a group photo with Bora Milutinovic, China's national soccer team's head coach, and other members of the team in Kunming, capital city of southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 26, 2002.  (Xinhua Photo/Tan Xipeng)Time has been blown on the Golden Whistle. Lu Jun, who earned that nickname when he was one of the country’s leading soccer referees, has been sentenced to five and a half years in jail for taking more than RMB710,000 ($113,000) in bribes to fix matches between 1999 and 2003. He is also to have personal property worth RMB100,000 confiscated. Lu is the man on the left of the Xinhua file picture to the right, taken in 2002, the year he became the first Chinese to officiate in a World Cup Finals.

Lu was one of nine convicted on corruption charges relating to Chinese football, whose professional soccer leagues have been plagued with allegations of gambling, match fixing and corrupt referees for years. The most severe sentence imposed in this latest batch of convictions was seven years imprisonment handed down to another Black Whistle, as corrupt referees are known, Huang Junjie. He is to have RMB200,000 of personal property confiscated. The former manager of the top professional league, the Super League, Lu Feng, is to serve six and a half years for corruption.

Other cases outstanding include the trials of Zhang Jianqiang, ex-director of the referees committee of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), and a former CFA vice-president, Yang Yimin. Both men’s trials started in December. (Update: Their sentences have now been handed down.)

Some 20 referees, players, officials and coaches have been arrested in a crackdown that stared in 2009 to cleanse the scandal-tainted game. These include former CFA vice-president Nan Yong, who was arrested in March 2010, and his predecessor Xie Yalong. They are still awaiting trial.

Several top-flight clubs, including Shandong Luneng, Shanghai Shenhua, Henan Jianye, Changchun Yatai and Jiangsu Shuntian, were implicated in the scandal. Shanghai Shenhua, for which French international Nicolas Anelka has recently signed, spent nearly $1 million bribing officials and referees such as Lu, the court in Dandong in Liaoning trying Lu was told.

The corruption scandals have overshadowed a dismal performance on the field by China’s national team. Its men’s side has failed to qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil, as it failed to do for the previous two. It also failed to qualify for the London Olympics tournament later this year, as did even its women’s team, which has been a rare beacon of success for Chinese teams in recent years. Even more humbling, China’s national team ranks 76th in the world on FIFA’s rankings. Neighbors Japan and South Korea rank 30th and 34th respectively.

As well as cleaning up the professional game and restoring the luster of the Super League by importing stars like Anelka, the education and sports ministry has launched an aggressive youth development program, including bringing in Jan Riekerink, who was previously coach of the storied Ajax youth team in his native Holland. Meanwhile, more than 100 promising young players have been sent to top professional clubs in Europe and South America in the hope that they or their successors can form the nucleus of a national side that could compete in a World Cup on Chinese soil, still dreamed of by the CFA for 2026.

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Cleansing China’s Corrupt Football

If China is to have any realistic expectation of bidding for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, it will have to clean up the endemic corruption, match-fixing and illegal gaming in its domestic game. It now looks likely that early next year Chinese football will have the opportunity of a public cleansing with the trials of seven former Chinese Football Association officials on charges of bribery and match-fixing.

For more than a year, police have been cracking down on the rot within the game with a couple of teams-worth of players, referees and administrators across the country detained for questioning. Last September, Xie Yalong, the former head of the CFA was taken into police custody for questioning along with Wei Shaohui, a former manager of the national team, and Li Dongsheng, the CFA official who headed the referees’ commission. Police were said to be investigating whether the men had any connections to Xie’s successor, Nan Yong, and two of his colleagues at the CFA, Yang Yimin and Zhang Jianqiang, who had been detained early in the year on suspicion of bribe-taking and match-fixing. Now all six plus a seventh CFA official, Fan Guangming, whose arrest in November 2009 started it all, are to be prosecuted, according to reports earlier this week in the Guangdong-based newspaper Soccer Monday (via China Daily).

Xie, who was installed as head of the CFA in 2005 from outside the sport to clean up the domestic professional league and improve the standing of the national team, is reportedly accused of taking bribes to secure hosting the East Asian Football Championship for Chongqing in 2006. It is said he, along with Nan and Yang, will not face match-fixing charges, only those of bribery and malfeasance — which may make a conviction easier to obtain as, legal experts say, the law does not define match-fixing clearly. There may be a loophole if matches are shown to be fixed by nobbling referees rather than players.

That is likely to be fixed along with the same purpose as handing out some exemplary high-profile sentences. For a country that is investing a lot of money and effort into reflecting its national pride in its emerging global power in the mirror of its sporting prowess, the confluence in football 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 still seem a long way off.

 

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The Rotten State Of China’s Football

China should be a power in Asian football by dint of raw population size if nothing else. Yet it occupies 10th spot in FIFA’s regional rankings (and is 87th in the world). It failed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where both North and South Korea will be competing; indeed, it has only qualified once, in 2002. The height of its achievement was to be losing finalist in Asian Nations Cup in 1984 and 2004, since when the national team has been on a downward trajectory.

For a country that has been putting a lot into reflecting its national pride in its emerging global power in its sporting prowess, that is a dismal, if not downright embarrassing record. Perhaps part of the reason is that players can bribe their way in to the national squad. That was one of the revelations of an anti-corruption probe into the professional game in the country that has been going on over the past year. It is uncovering what a lot of fans have long known: corruption, match-fixing and illegal gaming are endemic in Chinese professional football, and that the rot starts at the top and goes deep.

Earlier this month the head of the game’s governing body in China, Nan Yong, was removed from office along with his deputy. They were detained by authorities along with a third official from the FA. More than 20 officials, players and referees have been held for questioning during the anti-corruption probe. These include, Xu Hongtao, chairman of Super League club, Chengdu Blades, and his deputy. His club, which is owned by the English club Sheffield United, was demoted from the league for alleged match fixing. Second division Qingdao Hailifeng, found to have been the recipient of a bribe from Chengdu to throw a game in 2007 that ensured the Blades promotion to the Super League, has been thrown out of the professional sport. A third club, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, was also demoted from the Super League for alleged match-fixing in 2006. (Full details.)

The punishments have to be confirmed by the sports ministry, the General Administration of Sport of China, but that seems a formality. While the clubs can appeal, “the mountain of evidence unearthed during the nationwide crackdown on gambling means they have little chance of succeeding,” according to Xinhua.

Whether those punishments, the most severe imposed on the sport, are sufficiently exemplary to clean up the sport this Bystander frankly doubts so endemic is the corruption within the game. The new head of the FA, Wei Di, says it will take five years to set the sport to rights, so we expect there to be more punishments to come, including imprisonments such as the three year sentence imposed on a former player for illegal online betting. The confluence of corruption and sporting standing is of too great importance to the Party leadership (and football isn’t the only scandal-tainted sport). Last October, Liu Yandong, a Politburo member whose previous job was to keep non-Party organizations in line with Party policy, publicly said that President Hu Jintao was  “very concerned” about the state of the game.  There is much for him to be concerned about — and for professional football to be concerned about if the President is concerned.

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