PtG Article 31.10.2006

The Chinese gamble so much on football that no one wants to watch it

Knowledge bank: Chinese football has become a showcase of what happens when match fixing is allowed to continue for too long. Fans and sponsors have almost given up on the sport, and in a new attempt to turn the tide, the China Football Association (CFA) and the Chinese police set up a task force in October 2006 to stamp out football corruption.

The task force will investigate illicit activities in China’s top football league in order to crack down more  efficiently on sports betting and cheating among players, coaches and referees, reports the China Daily.

So far attempts to stamp out match fixing and illegal gambling in football in China have not been too efficient.

According to the British newspaper, the Guardian, Chinese football has been in tumult since the start of the professional league in 1994, and its governing body CFA has been accused of complicity in match-fixing, bribe-taking and gambling.

A new super league failed to solve problems

In 2004, a super league of the country’s top 12 teams was formed in the hope it could clean up the game’s image. But with little effect as match attendances have continued to plummet and football players are in a permanent state of disillusionment. The Guardian quotes a 2004-survey amongst players which said that more than half had seen or taken part in match gambling.

The problems did not clear up in 2005 either which led Asian Football Confederation chief, Peter Velappan to warn the Chinese government that if it did not investigate and eliminate the scourge of corruption in Chinese football, it would ”kill football in China.”

According to The Economist  hundreds of people were arrested and numerous websites were closed in 2005 in a campaign against online gambling.  Yet it proved little deterrent during this year’s World Cup in Germany where there was a massive upsurge in the crime.

Gambling is the biggest cancer of football

2006 started with a threat from Xie Yalong, head of CFA. He told the China Daily that he would shut down the super league if match fixing, gambling and bribery continued.

”We can not be gambling on matches. Gambling is the biggest cancer facing Chinese football. Because of gambling on matches, there is the buying off of refereesand the buying off of players,” said Xie Yalong.

Now the CFA and the Chinese police have set up a joint task force to combat the problems, but according to the Economist many argue that the problems lie within the CFA itself.

The Economist refers to a book published earlier this year by a former top sports official in Zheijian province, Chen Peide. The book is an expose of corruption in Chinese football and has attracted widespread attention. The author told a state-owned newspaper in China that ”many corrupt phenomena in China can be blamed on corruption within the (government) system.”