x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Chinese football authorities strip Shanghai Shenhua of title over match-fixing scandal

The Chinese Super League side, formerly home to Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba, were also fined and docked points for the forthcoming season.

Shanghai Shenhua's ground in China.
Shanghai Shenhua's ground in China.

Shanghai Shenhua have been stripped of their 2003 league title and 33 people banned for life over new match-fixing allegations in Chinese football.

Shenhua, which had signed Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka last season, were among a number of clubs and individuals punished by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) for widespread match-fixing scandals that have blighted the game in China.

But experts have warned the measures would not deter corruption because ever more money was flowing into the sport.

"These are not really serious punishments," said Yan Qiang, vice-president of sports publisher Titan Media.

"The professional football league is getting more popular and attracting more public attention. But where there is profit, there will be more people trying to get into it with illegal ways, so it will be an ongoing fight."

Shanghai Shenhua were also fined one million yuan ($160,000) and, along with Tianjin Teda, hit with a six-point deduction for the new season starting next month, as were Tianjin Teda.

China also has previously relegated teams from the country's top league for match-fixing. Chengdu Blades FC and Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, who later became current champions Guangzhou Evergrande, were demoted in 2010.

But Shanghai sources, quoted in domestic media, said they had been "treated unjustly".

"The football association believed the current team isn't completely different to the mainstay of the team back then, so they insisted on the punishment and we cannot do anything about it," a club insider told the Oriental Sports Daily newspaper.

Shanghai were found guilty of fixing a game against Shanxi Guoli during the 2003 campaign and were among 12 clubs given "disciplinary punishments".

Tianjin were found guilty of fixing a game in the same season.

Jilin Yanbian were fined 500,000 yuan and deducted three points for throwing a match in 2006.

The CFA also banned 33 people from involvement with football for life, including former CFA heads Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, who have both been convicted and jailed for taking bribes. Another 25 people were banned for five years.

China launched a high-profile crackdown on corruption in football in 2009, and scores of officials, referees and players have been jailed in recent months as the campaign reaches a climax.

The league appeared to turn a corner as star foreign names were brought in, among them Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, his former teammate at English Premier League side Chelsea, who both joined Shenhua.

But both players have since left the club, with Drogba going to Turkish league leaders Galatasaray in disputed circumstances and Anelka signing for Juventus on loan.

China's top sides are mainly bankrolled by cash-rich business titans willing to pay top salaries to lure foreign talent.

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