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CFA bans 33 people for life, fines clubs, but no team is relegated
Penalties handed out on Monday by China's top soccer body to individuals and clubs involved in the country's largest match-fixing scandal were slammed as inadequate by commentators.
After a three-year investigation, the Chinese Football Association issued lifetime bans on 33 people, including some previously jailed for involvement in match-fixing.
The harshest penalty imposed on clubs was handed out to Shanghai Shenhua. It was fined 1 million yuan ($158,000), stripped of the 2003 title and also had six points deducted from next season's campaign.
The club was found guilty of fixing matches by offering bribes of 350,000 yuan to former CFA official Zhang Jianqiang. Zhang arranged for referee Lu Jun to fix a 4-1 victory for the Shanghai team in a crucial match in its title-winning season in 2003 against rival Shanghai International.
Fellow top-division side Tianjin Teda were also fined 1 million yuan and given a six-point deduction next season for fixing a 2003 league game.
But these penalties were criticized as being too soft and the CFA was accused of double standards.
"The punishment is not fair to the former Guangzhou team and Chengdu Sheffield United. When they were found guilty of match-fixing, three years ago, they were relegated," said Liu Yong, a soccer journalist at Guangzhou newspaper News Express.
"How can today's punishments convince the public?" Liu asked.
Xu Jiren, sports head of Xinhua News Agency, said: "I personally think the punishment is not enough. It is regretful that no clubs were relegated this time."
"The clubs punished on Monday are no less guilty than the relegated clubs and the CFA should learn from what Europe has done."
French club Marseille was relegated in 1994 to the second division due to financial irregularities and a match fixing scandal. Moreover, it was stripped of its 1992-93 first division title and the right to play in the UEFA Champions League in 1993-94.
Juventus, one of the leading Italian clubs, went through a similar crisis in 2006. It was relegated and had a 30-point deduction. It was also stripped of its Serie A titles in 2005 and 2006, and barred from the Champions League that season.
Liang Yan, a host at Beijing Sports Radio, said the punishments meted out on Monday show that the Chinese league is not professional in its approach.
"The CFA should look at what other leagues have done if it wants to build a professional league," Liang said.
In an online poll on sina.com, almost 80 percent of participants said the punishments were too light.
China Central Television commentator Liu Jianhong called for supervision to regulate the league and said the scandal was a sad day for soccer.
"What should we do to ensure a clean future for Chinese soccer? Apart from an explanation regarding the punishments, the CFA should also plan for the future. A league without long-term supervision cannot be properly organized," Liu wrote on his micro blog.
Former soccer chiefs Xie Yalong, Nan Yong, Yang Yimin, and World Cup referee Lu Jun were among 33 who received lifetime bans.
Former internationals - Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin and Li Ming - all serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for bribery, were also banned for life.
Xu Hong, who recently took the helm of super league club Dalian Aerbin, was among 25 people banned from the game for five years.
The campaign to clean up soccer, launched in 2009, saw Nan and Xie jailed for corruption, along with a number of former internationals and top referees.
Nan and Xie were both given sentences of more than 10 years.
The punishments were announced just after Wei Di stepped down as chief of the CFA after three years.
(China Daily 02/19/2013 page1)