Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Corruption threatens football growth in China

Corruption in the Peoples Republic of China's football league could destroy the game there, Asian Football Confederation chief Peter Velappan has warned. He said all the money and effort ploughed in by the AFC to develop football in China would also go to waste if corruption was not eliminated.

"The government must investigate the allegations of corruption and eliminate the scourge in Chinese soccer," said, as quoted by People’s Daily. "I have warned them, the government must actively investigate this and eliminate the corruption scourge in Chinese football. If they don't then it will kill football in China and all the efforts we are making for Vision China will go to naught."

Mr Vellapan told China Football Association (CFA) officials last month the league needed to be run more professionally, especially in fields like club management, marketing and media coverage.

"We must bring the fans back to the stadium," he said, adding many supporters had turned away from the super league due to dissatisfaction with "referee corruption and match-fixing".

Mr Velappan was in China to launch the AFC's Vision Asia programme, a semi-professional city football league that will officially start in two Chinese cities - Wuhan in central China and Qingdao in the east.

As there are another 284 cities in China to cover under the programme, involving huge sums of money and effort from the AFC and China, there was a urgent need to address the problem, Mr Vellapan said.

"So they have to be very serious to fight corruption. When some South East Asian countries had this problem, we advised them to get the help of the police. This is what we have advised China to do," he said.

In April, China's cabinet stepped in to clean up the country's scandal-ridden football league, ordering a crackdown on match-fixing and hooliganism. The State Council order, unprecedented in the professional league's 12-year history, came after the inaugural season of the top-tier Super League was blighted by match-fixing accusations, prompting a near walk-out by some clubs.

"Fixed matches and gambling must be resolutely stopped, any appearance of this must be strictly handled," the order said.