After a near two-week speculation and a flood of rumours, the China Football Association (CFA) finally announced Thursday that Beijing Hyundai was stripped of three points of the table and fined 300,000 RMB (about US$36,300) in Beijing.
Yang Zuwu, general manager of the Chinese Premier League side is banned from entering a Super League match until April 13, 2005.
The punishment is far lighter than previous speculation that Beijing Hyundai was likely to be dropped from league competition forever, after the club made a threat to retire from the association because of a questionable call from referee Zhou Weixin during a league match on October 2, a first ever in the nation's professional football history.
"The incident not only undermines the image of the club, but also brings further effect to the recently unstable sport. In order to maintain the normal system of the Super League and prevent similar incidents from happening, we have to give the Beijing club necessary punishment," said Lang Xiaonong, secretary of the Premier League Committee.
However, the club got some consolation from the CFA as the referee Zhou received a ban of eight matches.
"After repeated assessment, we admit Zhou's decision to give a penalty to Beijing in the match was a mistake and we made a decision to dismiss his qualification as a referee in the next eight rounds," said Li Dongsheng, official of the CFA Referee Committee.
The remark is in sharp contrast to their previous attitude following the match as CFA said Beijing made an unacceptable blunder and the referee's call was just.
In response to the CFA punishments, Beijing Hyundai called a press conference midnight, threatening to pull out of the next round on Saturday unless the CFA revoked its decision in two days.
Beijing club chairman Li Shilin said the CFA made its decision without consulting the Chinese Premier League Commission (CPLC) according to the league rules and regulations. He also demanded the CFA to return the administration rights of the premier league to the CPLC.
Li called for an emergency meeting of the CPLC standing committee to tackle problems in the premier league's structure, running system, accounting and competition environment.
Dalian Shide, six-time first division champion and now languishing in third in the inaugural premier league, joined the Beijing club in attacking the Chinese soccer ruling body, accusing it of bad accounting, poor financial management and incompetence in youth program.
Xu Ming, chairman of Dalian Shide, attended Beijing Hyundai's press conference in a show of support for the embattled club.
"It isn't Guo'an alone who has problems," he said. "Chinese soccer has accumulated so many problems over years."Chinese soccer has been troubled with betting on games by players and black whistles (corrupt referees). The CFA has never let us know their accounting records or how they run the league financially for 10 years.
"Chinese clubs should unite to deal with these problems." Xu said he had called other premier clubs who claimed to fully support Guo'an's response to the CFA's penalty.
"Chinese soccer is hopeless if we can't seize upon this chance to solve these problems," Xu said.
The CFA has been in a more serious confidence crisis since the Chinese national team lost to Kuwait 1-0 on Wednesday night and lost control of their own destiny in the Asian World Cup qualifiers.
Beijing Hyundai made headlines on October 2nd when the Beijing players were ordered off the field in the 84th minute against Shenyang Jinde in the 14th round in protest over the referee's decision to award Shenyang a controversial penalty.
The match was then tied 1-1, but the referee awarded Shenyang a 3-0 victory after Beijing boycotted the match for the call.
The CFA also chose to follow the original 3-0 loss for Beijing. Beijing Hyundai later threatened to stop playing in the Chinese Super League after learning the CFA could back referee and award Shenyang Jinde a 3-0 forfeit victory.
Yang then rocked China's football world again by saying on October 5th that the country's professional league was facing collapse because of rampant corruption and match-fixing scandals.
Yang said that "faked matches, black whistles, betting on games and other ugly phenomena" were increasing. "Black whistle" is slang for corrupt referees.
"Some clubs, some players, even some coaches, referees and other related people are involved in gambling on matches and other things," Yang was quoted as saying.
In an interview with China Central Television, Yang said he had made the decision "after considering the overall situation and the political angles."
"We may have lost three points, but that's better than something serious happening," he said, without further explanation.
Yang noted that more than 1 billion yuan, or US$120 million, had been invested in China's professional soccer league since it was established more than a decade ago.
"Considering the results, the injection of so much money has not been worthwhile," he said on CCTV.