A prominent former soccer boss and a referees director were handed long jail terms for bribery and match-fixing in China on Saturday as part of a massive anti-graft drive aimed at cleaning up the corruption-blighted local game.
Yang Yimin, a former deputy-chief of the Chinese Football Association, was sentenced to 10 and one-half years in prison by a Tieling court in China's northeastern Liaoning province, and he also was ordered to pay a 200,000 yuan ($32,000) fine, state media reported.
One of the highest-ranking officials to be swept up in the probe launched more than two years ago, Yang had taken bribes totaling 1.25 million yuan on 40 different occasions from domestic clubs and individuals, the Xinhua news agency said.
Yang would not appeal the sentence, the agency quoted Yang's attorney Wang Shujing as saying. The punishment isn't harsh, Wang said. Yang took bribes as a government official, and the harshest punishment for taking bribes as a public servant could be the death penalty.
The court also sentenced the CFA's former referees director Zhang Jianqiang to 12 years in jail, along with imposing a fine of 250,000 yuan.
In his capacity as referees director and in other prominent roles in women's and amateur soccer, Zhang had taken bribes from a number of clubs in the top-flight domestic competition, the Chinese Super League (CSL), including Shandong Luneng and Shanghai Shenhua. He had taken money from the latter club to help it win the 2003 league title, Xinhua said. He also did not intend to appeal.
The Tieling court read out trial verdicts and sentences for a total of 39 people, including Du Yunqi, former president of CSL club Qingdao, who received a seven-year sentence.
Former general manager of the Liaoning Guangyuan Club, Wang Xin, was also sentenced to seven years in prison, while former general manager of the Shaanxi Guoli team, Wang Po, received a eight-year term.
Soccer fans set off fireworks outside the court to celebrate the rulings, Xinhua said.
Chinese soccer has been dogged by match-fixing scandals for years, which, along with violence on and off the pitch, has alienated fans of the domestic game.
Four referees, including Lu Jun, a former World Cup match official once celebrated as China's Golden Whistle, were handed jail terms of as many as seven years on Thursday for match-fixing and corruption-related offenses.
Two of the most prominent people caught in the anti-corruption blitz, former CFA heads Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, are yet to go on trial.
The verdicts have cast a cloud over the CSL ahead of its March 10 kick-off, with administrators facing the embarrassment of a number of scandal-hit teams set to take the field.
(Writing by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Greg Stutchbury and Nick Mulvenney.)