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February 22, 2010

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Relegations, ban handed to soccer's big fixers

TWO soccer clubs in the Chinese Super League were relegated while a team in a lower division was fined heavily and disqualified from national matches indefinitely for their roles in a massive match-fixing scandal.

They are the most serious punishments ever handed down by the Chinese Football Association.

The disciplinary commission of the association yesterday revealed the penalties for Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, Chengdu Blades and Qingdao Hailifeng.

Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and Chengdu Blades, two Super League clubs, were relegated to the Series A League this season.

Series A club Qingdao Hailifeng was banned from all future national matches organized by the CFA and fined 200,000 yuan (US$29,287).

The penalties had yet to be approved by authorities in both the CFA and the General Administration of Sport, an unnamed official with the commission said.

However, he said it was only a matter of time before the penalties became effective as police investigations had discovered solid evidence of the three clubs being involved in the fixing of matches.

The decision on the relegation of Chengdu Blades and Guangzhou Pharmaceutical has cast a cloud of doubt over this year's Super League. The organizer of the CSL said it would not start the season with only 14 teams.

However, replacement sides for Chengdu Blades and Guangzhou Pharmaceutical have not been announced.

Many Qingdao football fans said the heavier penalty against their club for the same offence was unfair and expressed their anger via, a professional sports Website.

They also expressed concern about the future of Qingdao's players.

Officials of the Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Qingdao teams could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Some club officials have either been arrested or are under investigation over the match-fixing scandal.

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

The match determined whether Chengdu Blades would be promoted to the super league, the country's top professional competition.

Hailifeng was paid for letting Chengdu Blades win, the Ministry of Public Security said.

The Qingdao team also lost key matches to Guangzhou Pharmaceutical in 2006 even though it was at the top ofthe standings in the firsthalf of the season.


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