China soccer match-fixing probe nets 3 execs

By Xie Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-12 09:45

At least three executives, including two from China's only English-invested soccer club, have been arrested or detained for match-fixing, the Ministry of Public Security said on Friday.

Xu Hongtao, chairman of Chengdu Blades, and You Kewei, the club's deputy manager, have been arrested for allegedly bribing Qingdao-based Hailifeng Club to win a crucial match in September 2007 in order to advance to China's Premiership, the ministry said.

Liu Hongwei, leader of Hailifeng, which "deliberately lost the game" to the Blades, has been detained.

This is the second time the ministry has released details of the ongoing nationwide crackdown on soccer match-fixing and gambling. Late last month, it said at least four people had been detained.

A number of former soccer players and officials are on the suspects' list, with some of them being accused of gambling through foreign websites.

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Hailifeng's Liu has admitted taking 300,000 yuan ($44,000) and accepting a "free winter training" offer for his team - worth about 200,000 yuan - to throw away the game against the Blades, according to a Central China Television (CCTV) report on Friday.

"I chose some young players, who were not regulars in the team, to play the match so that ordinary spectators could not tell we were trying to fix the game," Liu said. "After all, this kind of things often happen in China."

"The crackdown on match-fixing and gambling by the Ministry of Public Security is to cure China's ailing soccer, but it cannot recover fully without strict management," Xu said.

Fans love to call the Sichuan-based Blades the "Chengdu Sheffield United" because England's Sheffield United Football Club has a stake in the team. Sheffield United now ranks 12th among the 24 teams in the English Football League Championship, England's second-tier league.

Zhou Qing'an, a commentator with CCTV, said that though till now only comparatively "small fish" have been netted in the match-fixing scandal, the bigger ones could be on their way.

"Only if the authorities press ahead with the clampdown can soccer see a revival in the country," he said.

"But investigators would encounter more obstacles once they get deeper into the scandal," Zhou warned.

Nan Yong, deputy chairman of Chinese Football Association, said the association would cooperate with the security bureau and the nationwide clampdown would "definitely" go on.

Nan said he had communicated with Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, the world soccer governing body, about China's campaign to clean up the soccer set-up.

The crackdown began in March when a high-profile committee was set up by 12 ministry-level organs to clean Chinese soccer of its evils.

In October, President Hu Jintao, Vice-President Xi Jinping and State Councilor Liu Yandong stressed the need to revitalize soccer in China.