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February 24, 2010

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Soccer crackdown set to widen

THE crackdown on match fixing and betting in national soccer is continuing apace, with the newly appointed boss of the Chinese Football Association saying that more clubs are under investigation.

Wei Di made the comments as he confirmed the CFA had handed down its most serious penalties since formation, with two clubs in the Super League - China's top division - relegated and another team banned indefinitely from all competition.

Though Wei did not specify which clubs are under investigation, an insider told Xinmin Evening News that one of them is Shandong Luneng, one of the most successful ones in China.

Speculation about Shandong Luneng has no doubt been fueled after the club's former manager, Dong Gang, was questioned by police over the massive scandal.

Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and Chengdu Blades in the Super League would be relegated to Series A this season for their role in match-fixing scandals, Wang Xiaoping, the head of the CFA's disciplinary watchdog, said at a press conference yesterday.

Series A club Qingdao Hailifeng was banned from all future national matches organized by the CFA and fined 200,000 yuan (US$29,278) as it threw several key matches in exchange for money.

The Xinmin Evening News report said Luneng, the two-time champion Super League team, would suffer relegation if police produced evidence of match fixing.

After the relegation of Chengdu and Guangzhou, there is a query over how many teams will compete in this year's Super League, due to start on March 20.

Website cited an insider as saying that the vacancies will be filled by Zhejiang Lucheng and Chongqing Lifan, two former Super League teams relegated this year because of poor performances last season.

Replacement sides have not yet been announced and CSL organizers said they would not start the competition with only 14 teams. The Website said the replacement plan had been reported to the General Sports Bureau and was awaiting approval.

The crackdown has netted dozens of former players, officials and referees over betting, match fixing and corruption.


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