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December 12, 2009

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More arrests in soccer graft probe

TWO more soccer managers were arrested in connection with alleged betting and match-fixing in China's probe of corruption in the game, police said yesterday.

Xu Hongtao, president of Chengdu Blades Football Club, and his deputy You Kewei are accused of bribing a Qingdao Hailifeng club official to fix a second-division match in 2007.

The match would determine whether Chengdu would be promoted to the Chinese Super League, the country's top professional league. Hailifeng was paid for letting the Blades win, the Ministry of Public Security said.

Police have detained Hailifeng's manager Liu Hongwei.

Liu allegedly confessed that You called him three days before the match and asked if he could make his team lose. Liu said he asked for 300,000 yuan (US$43,397) and one month's free use of Chengdu's training base in exchange for losing the game, China Central Television reported yesterday.

Hailifeng used second-string players and Chengdu won the game 2-0.

Xu is not qualified to be a manager, Titan Sports reported yesterday.

Xu convinced England's Sheffield United to buy the Chengdu Blades in 2006 and managed to "export" Chinese football stars to top leagues in other countries. The Blades are now preparing for next season's CSL campaign and many players said they did not believe that Xu was involved in match-fixing.

The ministry said Xu, You, and Liu violated criminal laws and will be punished accordingly, said a member of the task force on the case.

Xu's case came to light after an investigation into a match between Guangzhou Pharmaceutical FC and Shanxi Luhu FC. The police probe was designed to clean up the scourge of soccer gambling.

The probe widened after Wang Xin, former manager of Liaoning Guangyuan FC, which played in the Singapore league, was detained by police last month. At least six former soccer club managers were arrested for manipulating matches and many more were questioned by police.

An official with the China Football Association said at the very least Guangzhou Pharmaceutical FC, now in the Chinese Super League, will be relegated.


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