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Chen Xuyuan Sentenced to Life in Prison for Bribery

A former president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), Chen Xuyuan, has been handed a life sentence for bribery, as reported by the country’s state media.

In January, Chen admitted to accepting bribes amounting to 81 million yuan ($11.2m; £8.9m).

An anti-corruption campaign initiated by President Xi Jinping has permeated various sectors, including sports, finance, and the military. Within football, numerous coaches and players have come under scrutiny.

During the trial at the Intermediate People’s Court of Huangshi in central China, Chen’s corrupt practices from 2010 to 2023 were unveiled, spanning his tenure as president and chairman of the Shanghai International Port Group.

According to prosecutors, Chen received financial incentives and other benefits in exchange for influencing project contracts and organizing sports events.

The court verdict highlighted the “significant harm” Chen inflicted on China’s football development, as reported by the state-controlled Xinhua news agency.

Additionally, three other senior football officials were sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight to 14 years for involvement in corrupt activities.

Earlier this year, former Everton midfielder and ex-head coach of China’s national men’s soccer team, Li Tie, confessed to match-fixing and offering bribes, including to Chen, in pursuit of China’s top coaching position.

In a related case, South Korea’s Son Jun-ho, formerly with Shandong Taishan, was detained by Chinese authorities over a bribery scandal. He has since been released.

President Xi has expressed aspirations for China to become a leading footballing nation, outlining his “three wishes” in 2011: World Cup qualification, hosting the tournament, and winning it eventually.

Despite significant investment in Chinese football over the past decade, including attracting top international players, financial mismanagement and corruption have plagued the sport. The CFA implemented a salary cap in 2020 to prioritize the development of domestic talent.

The recent crackdown on corruption within football administration has dealt a blow to China’s football ambitions, although the sport remains popular domestically, and revelations of Chen’s corruption have shocked fans.

Credit: Portions of this article were inspired by BBC News.

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