China jails sports officials convicted of taking bribes


BEIJING — The former president of the Chinese Football Association has been sentenced to life in prison amid a wide-ranging crackdown on sports corruption.

Chinese courts on Tuesday handed down sentences of between eight years and life in prison to officials in the Communist Party-controlled sports programs, accusing them of taking bribes and committing other financial crimes.

Chen Xuyuan, the former CFA president, received a life sentence for helping fix matches and using his various positions to commit financial crimes, state media reported.

Xinhua reported that all of Chen’s personal property would be confiscated and his illegal gains would be recovered and turned over to the state treasury.

Other high-ranking officials sentenced to prison for taking bribes included the former head of the National Athletics Association, Hong Chen, who was sentenced to 13 years, former high-ranking soccer official Chen Yongliang, who received 14 years, and Dong Zheng, former CEO of Chinese Football Association Super League Company, for eight years.

The league is largely backed by real estate firms that have become overextended and cannot deliver finished apartments or pay back their debts.

The payments to players whom they hoped would make them ever-bigger in China and possibly international brand names have come askew amid concerns about company finances in the world’s second largest economy.

China’s domestic soccer leagues have long struggled with corruption and financial instability, while the national men’s and women’s teams languish in the international ranks, despite earlier successes.

Corruption in the sport is mainly linked to payoffs to players and referees to produce an outcome that benefits gambling syndicates.

There have also been allegations that payments were made to gain players spots at training camps for top teams, including the men’s national squad, which is now ranked 88th by FIFA. The Chinese women’s team occupies 19th place.

Xi Jinping, China’s head of state and leader of the ruling Communist Party, had previously announced plans to make China a superpower through the enrollment of children in newly constructed academies aided by the construction of thousands of new pitches.

An economic slowdown and government involvement in sports, culture and private business have weighed on the potential success of those goals.


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