China to build on anti-graft efforts in soccer with expansive reforms
Campaign has achieved significant results: authorities
Published: Jul 09, 2024 09:07 PM
Former Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan  Photo: Xinhua

Former Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan Photo: Xinhua

The anti-corruption campaign launched in China's soccer realm has achieved significant results and the reforms in the sports sector will be deepened, according to a circular released by the discipline inspection and supervisory authorities on Monday. 

The General Administration of Sport of China (GAS) has launched a nationwide campaign to clean up the soccer sector, especially targeting the Chinese Football Association (CFA). The campaign is dedicated to cracking down on corruption, strengthening the leadership of the Party over soccer initiatives, purifying the sport's ecosystem and promoting reforms and development, read the circular posted by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the National Supervisory Commission.

The initiatives underline China's commitment to restoring the credibility of the sports sector, which has been marred by a spate of corruption scandals. They aim to create a sustainable and inclusive environment in which sports can flourish and contribute positively to society and the economy, the expert said. 

Lessons will be learned from the corruption cases in the sports sector, especially the CFA, and the next step will be focused on fostering a healthy sports culture, enhancing the supervision of sports ethics and promoting a positive change in the sports industry, said Liu Yu, a Beijing-based sports commentator. 

The anti-corruption campaign began in 2022 when Li Tie, the former head coach of China's national men's soccer team, was placed under investigation for paying and taking bribes. Subsequently, more than 10 senior and mid-level officials of the CFA have been investigated along with coaches, players and referees.

In May, Gou Zhongwen, former director of GAS, was placed under investigation for suspected severe violations of Party discipline and the law. Gou, who worked as GAS chief from 2016 to 2022, is the latest high-profile figure in the sports sector under probe. In January, Du Zhaocai, former deputy director of GAS, was prosecuted on suspicion of bribery. In March of 2023, Chen Xuyuan, former president of CFA, was sentenced to life in prison for taking bribes worth over 81 million yuan ($11 million).

Liu told the Global Times on Tuesday that the anti-graft initiatives in China's sports sector are crucial steps toward fostering transparency, fair play, and efficiency. 

These efforts not only strengthen the integrity of sports within China but also ensure a level playing field for both athletes and stakeholders, contributing to a positive ecosystem which encourages mass participation in sports. A clean and well-managed sports sector also enhances China's international reputation, Liu said. 

"Deepening reforms can lead to more efficient allocation of resources within the sports sector. Funds and facilities are directed toward improving infrastructure, training programs, and grassroots development rather than being misused or siphoned off," he noted. 

Also in May, the former head of China's delegation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games Ni Huizhong was expelled from the CPC and dismissed from his public post for seriously violating Party discipline and laws.

The circular also mentioned four aspects of efforts aimed at promoting national soccer reform and driving its healthy development, such as implementing a five-year plan for reform and development of Chinese soccer, improving youth soccer competition system, and facilitating community-level soccer events.

GAS was one of the 30 targets of the first round of disciplinary inspections launched by the 20th Central Committee of the CPC from April to June in 2023.