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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Soccer bribe trials chance to clean up sport's legacy

By Mo Ting and Jin Jianyu (Global Times)

10:40, December 20, 2011

The trial of one of China's most infamous soccer corruption cases began yesterday morning at the Intermediate People's Court of Tieling in Liaoning Province.

A number of soccer officials will stand trial this week on charges of bribery.

Zhang Jianqiang, the former director of the Chinese Football Association's (CFA) referee committee, was the first defendant to face trial. He is charged with taking bribes of up to 2.73 million yuan ($431,067) between 1997 and 2009, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

Zhang admitted he took bribes of up to 700,000 yuan in 2003 with Lu Jun, a high-profile former referee from the Shanghai Shenhua Football Club. The trial ended without a verdict yesterday as the defense and the prosecution disagreed over the charges of bribery that Zhang faces.

Chen Tao, a lawyer at the Beijing Junyong Law Firm, told the Global Times that Zhang could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

More than 10 people, most of whom are former CFA and club officials, will stand trial in Tieling this week, including Yang Yimin, the ex-deputy director of the Chinese Football Administrative Center, who also faces bribery charges.

According to the court, several soccer clubs, including Shanghai Shenhua and Jiangsu Shuntian, were embroiled in the bribery scandal.

Pan Caifu, a renowned soccer columnist, told the Global Times that the remarkable trial surrounding corruption in Chinese soccer was a positive signal heralding a great change for the sport in China.

"But a single trial cannot purify the Chinese soccer system," Pan said. "The law regulating soccer is still a blank."

In a statement released yesterday, the CFA reiterated its determination to fight against any wrong-doing by saying that soccer corruption had tarnished the image of the sport as well as the healthy development of soccer in China.

"We need to build a solid system to prevent corruption and increase reforms in soccer in China," the CFA said.

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