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December 4, 2009

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Soccer players turn to betting, match-fixing after wages drop

LOW salaries and frequent delayed payments led some professional Chinese soccer players to collaborate with betting firms and fix matches.

This alarming trend was revealed in a report by a task force of the State Council, China's Cabinet, that is part of a crackdown on illegal activities in the domestic soccer industry.

The Chinese Football Association had informed Chinese Super League club bosses of the results of the report, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

The task force found most football clubs in the nation owed back wages to players.

Lower interest in domestic soccer led to a drop in spectators that has been mirrored in player payments.

Top-level CSL players are no longer paid 1-million-yuan (US$146,480) annual packages, according to the study.

Most CSL players earn no more than 400,000 yuan a year, while more inexperienced players may receive wages as low as 1,000 yuan a month.

Despite the vastly lower wages, many clubs are still delaying payments and breaching other areas in players' contracts, the report said.

Wang Qiang, a national team player from Jinde Football Club in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, said he was only paid part of his agreed bonus in 2007, received no bonus in 2008 and expected nothing again this year.

According to the report, many football clubs are facing financial problems.

Some of them are reported to have encouraged players to make extra money by fixing matches and betting.

The report said a number of businessmen invested in football clubs and manipulated them to make big money from match-fixing and then betting on games where the results are predetermined.

Wang Po, former general manager of the Shanxi club in northern China, has been detained by police on suspicion of manipulating a number of First Division league matches since 2006.

The First Division is the second-tier league in China.

The nationwide official scrutiny of domestic soccer was triggered by a police raid that seized a soccer-betting syndicate based in Shenyang, capital of northern China's Liaoning Province.

The Ministry of Public Security has not revealed how many people have been questioned in the inquiry or whether big names are involved.

However, it said investigations were ongoing.

A Chinese Super League team, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical FC which was promoted from the First Division in 2007, may face relegation because it is accused by police of paying 200,000 yuan to Wang for a 5-1 "fixed" win in 2006.


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