Penalties for corruption in Chinese soccer — including 33 life bans and the stripping of Didier Drogba’s former club Shanghai Shenhua of the 2003 league title — were branded inadequate yesterday.
Shenhua received the harshest punishment from the Chinese Football Association (CFA) for the part they played in match-fixing scandals that have blighted the game in China.
However, their punishment, which also included a fine of 1 million yuan (US$160,000) and a six-point deduction for the new Chinese Super League season starting next month, was criticized as too soft.
“I personally think this is not enough and it is regrettable that no clubs were relegated this time,” said Xi Jiren, head of sports at Xinhua news agency.
“The CFA should learn from what Europe has done,” Xi told the China Daily, referring to a series of corruption clampdowns which saw Italian giants Juventus relegated and stripped of two Serie A titles.
Shanghai and Tianjin Teda, who were also punished with a fine and points deduction, were “no less guilty” than two Chinese teams previously relegated from the country’s top league for match-fixing, Xi added.
Chengdu Blades FC and Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, who later became current champions Guangzhou Evergrande, were demoted in 2010.
Shanghai were found guilty of fixing a game against Shanxi Guoli during the 2003 campaign and were among 12 clubs given “disciplinary punishments.”
Tianjin were found guilty of fixing a game in the same season.
Jilin Yanbian were fined 500,000 yuan and deducted three points for throwing a match in 2006.
The CFA also banned 33 people from involvement with soccer for life, including former CFA heads Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, who have both been convicted and jailed for taking bribes, with another 25 people banned for five years.
“To see where the environment for this corruption was bred, one need look no further than the original culprit — the CFA,” said one post on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. “I would suggest the CFA be banned for life from Chinese football.”
China launched a high-profile crackdown on corruption in soccer in 2009, leading to several prison sentences.
The league appeared to turn a corner as star foreign names were brought in, among them Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, his former teammate at Premier League side Chelsea, who both joined Shenhua.
However, both players have since left the club, with Drogba going to Turkish league leaders Galatasaray in disputed circumstances and Anelka signing for Juventus on loan.