BEIJING: Three Chinese soccer referees, including the renowned "golden whistle" Lu Jun, have been arrested on charges of accepting bribes in the domestic league, soccer chief Wei Di has affirmed.
"I can only confirm that Lu Jun, Zhou Weixin and Huang Junjie have been arrested, but the police wouldn't tell me the details," Wei told Soccer News.
"I was really shocked and hurt when Lu's name cropped up in the scandal. He is undoubtedly a first-rate referee in terms of working ability, but his morals are a far cry from his 'golden whistle' reputation," Wei said.
Lu, 51, who has umpired more than 200 matches in the domestic league between 1991 and 2005, was named the "best referee" in the the league's first decade.
Lu became the first Chinese to supervise World Cup games when he umpired two matches of the 2002 edition in the Republic of Korea and Japan. He has also been conferred with the "Referee of the Year" award by the Asian Football Confederation twice.
Zhou, another former referee in the domestic league, was handed an eight-match suspension due to a misjudgment in 2004, after which he called it a day.
Huang, the only one of the three who was still active, was nominated for the "best referee" award for last season's Chinese Super League.
Insiders believe the arrest of the three celebrated referees is an indication that the police have solid evidence of their involvement in match fixing.
"We don't know what sentences they will get But we can see these referees must have contributed to the problem of match fixing and manipulation," Wei said.
The sentence for State servants who are found guilty of accepting bribes of more than 100,000 yuan ($14,705) is a minimum of 10 years up to death, according to Chinese law.
In 2002, referee Gong Jianping was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for taking 370,000 yuan in bribes as a public employee.
Wei said the scandal has forced the organizers of the league to change the system for selecting referees and reinforce its supervision.
"We will adopt a new mechanism to improve our management. No leader of the Chinese Football Association, including me, can decide which referee to use," he said.
According to Wei, under the new regulation, the complete list of referees will be published before the season and will be open to evaluation by the clubs.
Wei also said the new season, which kicks off on Mar 27, will have 20 percent new referees.