General Administration of Sport sends work group to take over soccer body
Team expected to promote kick-off of leagues amid anti-graft storm
Published: Apr 03, 2023 11:28 PM
The Huanglong Stadium in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province which will host the CFA Super Cup on April 8, 2023. Photo: VCG

The Huanglong Stadium in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province which will host the CFA Super Cup on April 8, 2023. Photo: VCG

A seven-member work group has been sent by China's General Administration of Sport (GAS) to take over operations at the Chinese Football Association (CFA), its affiliated soccer department, as a number of senior officials at the CFA have been put under investigation amid the thunderous anti-corruption campaign.

The GAS set up this work group to be stationed in the CFA and preside over the work of the association to ensure the CFA's normal operation, the GAS said during a CFA all-member meeting on Monday morning in Beijing, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. 

The move came two days after Du Zhaocai, vice head of the GAS, was put under investigation, the highest-ranking soccer-related official to be probed so far. The probe into Du reflects the determination of China to bring the soccer industry back to normal, observers noted. 

According to media reports, the work group is led by Li Yingchuan, vice minister of the GAS. Li, having joined the sports administration in 2015 and become its deputy head in 2017, is not new to the association. 

Du, who is also the Party secretary of the CFA, was put under investigation for suspected serious violations of discipline and law, according to the country's top anti-graft authority on Saturday. Du is being investigated by the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Commission of Supervision.

Du is the seventh senior CFA official taken away for investigation in the past few months. Since CFA president Chen Xuyuan was put under investigation on suspicion of serious violations of law and discipline in February, Du has been in charge of coordinating work at the CFA, The Paper reported. 

With Du's departure, only four senior officials of the CFA remain in their jobs, including vice presidents Gao Hongbo, Sun Wen, and secretary of committee for discipline inspection Yan Zhanhe. Gao, Sun and Yan are also among the member list of the latest work group dispatched by the GAS. 

The CFA's current work focus may be related to the kick-off of soccer leagues of different levels, observers noted. Speculation has been rampant over the possibility of a postponement of the Chinese Super League (CSL) due to the investigation in the CFA. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the CFA and Chinese Football League preparatory group announced that 48 clubs will compete in China's professional leagues in the 2023 season.

According to Guo Bingyan, a senior official from the group, the CSL is preparing for its new season to kick off on April 15, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "All related work, including field inspection and league regulations, is in full progress."

Ma Dexing, vice chief editor of the Changsha-based Titan Sports newspaper, told the Global Times on Monday that the anti-graft campaign is unlikely to postpone the upcoming 2023 league season as the preparations were already in progress.

"Preparations for the start of the new season of the CSL are still going on as normal," Ma said. 

"Clubs are actively engaged in pre-season preparations, and the preparatory team of the Chinese professional leagues under the CFA is also proceeding in an orderly manner."

The upcoming Saturday will also see the CFA Super Cup competition between last season's CSL winners Wuhan Three Towns and CFA Cup champions Shandong Taishan held in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province. 

Ma also noted that the Chinese women's national team has traveled to Europe for friendlies with Switzerland and Spain, as the team prepares for the FIFA Women's World Cup in July, while the men's national under-22 team is in Croatia to prepare for its season.

At least nine senior soccer-related officials are subject to investigation as part of the latest anti-graft campaign, which kicked off in November 2022.

Aside from the seven CFA senior officials including Wang Xiaoping, director of the disciplinary committee of the CFA, and Huang Song, director of the competition department of the CFA, two other soccer figures - former head coach of the Chinese men's national team Li Tie and former general manager of CSL Dong Zheng - are also under investigation.

The Communist Party of China Central Committee vowed on March 27 to launch random inspections across the GAS to promote the implementation of China's plan to build the country into a sporting power and address issues in sport administration, especially in the soccer industry.