A former World Cup match official is one of four Chinese soccer referees sentenced Thursday to seven-years in jail for match-fixing and gambling.

According to the Xinhua news agency, Lu Jun -- a referee at the 2002 World Cup -- was sentenced by the Intermediate People's Court in the northeastern city of Dandong to five years and six months for accepting bribes.

Jun was one of 60 local players, referees, coaches and officials put on trial in December following a two-year investigation into match-fixing that has blighted the country's struggling soccer leagues in recent years.

Known as the Golden Whistle, Jun's fall from grace has stunned the Chinese footballing community.

He was the first Chinese referee to officiate a World Cup game, making his debut in 2002.

Three other referees -- Huang Junjie, Zhou Weixin and Wan Daxue -- were sentenced to seven, three-and-a-half and six years, respectively.

Lu was found guilty of altering the outcomes of seven games and including one at Shanghai Shenhua, who have just signed French striker and Chelsea star Nicolas Anelka.

According to Reuters, Chinese soccer has been dogged by graft and match-fixing scandals for years, which along with violence on and off the pitch, led to fans turning away from the domestic game in droves.

The rash of convictions has occurred less than a month before China's top-flight domestic league kicks off its new season on March 10.

A number of local clubs, including Shandong Luneng, Shanghai Shenhua, Henan Jianye, Changchun Yatai and Jiangsu Shuntian, are embroiled in the investigations, leaving administrators with a potential headache as to their participation in the league.