Chinese authorities aren’t fooling around when it comes to punishing those who fix soccer games. While some countries give out shorter sentences for murder, China sentenced a former member of its soccer association on Feb. 18 to 12 years behind bars for taking bribes and fixing the outcome of games.
Yang Yimin, who is a former deputy chief in the CFA (Chinese Football Association), was found guilty of taking bribes of 1.25 million yuan, which works out to about US $200,000, and was handed a 10-and-a-half-year sentence. Zhang Jianqiang, who is a former director of referees, received a dozen years for taking bribes of US $433,000. Jianqiang was found guilty of taking bribes on 24 different occasions. In all, 39 former employees, team managers and officials were sentenced for their deeds.
Yimin took bribes from 20 teams and individuals at least 40 times including $10,000 from one club for fixing players’ fitness test results. He was also fined about US $31,700 to go along with his 10-year sentence and said he doesn’t intend to appeal the verdict. It’s not really surprising that Yimin is satisfied with his sentence since his lawyer said he could have received the death penalty for taking bribes while working as a public servant in China.
Jianqiang admitted he took money from teams in the Chinese Super League and helped one of them win the title in 2003. He was fined $40,000 and also said he wasn’t going to launch an appeal. After all of the sentences were handed out soccer fans celebrated by setting off a fireworks display outside of the court building. However, the court has only finished with about half of the sentencing as 18 people were still waiting to learn their fate.
Sentences were also handed down on Feb. 16 in Liaoning Province as nine people were found guilty of various offences, including referee Lu Jun, who received five-and-a-half years. Jun refereed in the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup and was found guilty of fixing seven Chinese league games and taking US $128,000 in bribes. He was also named the referee of the year by the Asian Football Confederation on two occasions.
Huang Junjie, another former referee, received a seven-year sentence for fixing games between 2005 and 2009. These included two matches between Chinese clubs and Manchester United of England and Australian club Sydney FC.
Game fixing isn’t anything new in China and the government started cracking down on it in 2009. Soccer has seen many match-fixing and gambling scandals over the years as well as cases of corruption and sporadic violence. Some Chinese fans have stopped attending domestic games and have taken to watching European soccer leagues on television as an alternative. It was reported that more soccer officials and former players will be facing trial in March.