Senior officials to take over China’s football body amid corruption crackdown

Senior officials to take over China’s football body amid corruption crackdown

03 Apr 2023 ( SCMP )

A team of senior sporting officials will take over operations at the Chinese Football Association (CFA) amid a sweeping campaign targeting corruption in the sport.

The General Administration of Sport of China on Monday said it had set up a seven-member working group to lead its football department, the CFA.

It came two days after the ruling Communist Party’s top graft-buster announced that 63-year-old Du Zhaocai, deputy head of the sports administration and vice-chairman of the CFA, was being investigated for “suspected violations of discipline and law” – a euphemism for corruption.

The working group is led by Li Yingchuan, an author and education professor who was previously dean of the Capital University of Physical Education and Sports in Beijing, where training for athletes participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics took place.

Li was director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports before he joined the sports administration in 2015 and became its deputy head in 2017.

Some of China’s most senior sports officials make up the rest of the team, including Cao Jingwei, director of the China Institute of Sport Science; Yang Xu, deputy director of the Handball, Ice Hockey, Baseball and Softball Centre; and Yuan Yongqing, a secretary with the graft-buster, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). Yuan is also involved with the Chinese Basketball Association.

Last week, the new CCDI leadership team launched a new round of inspections – indicating more regulatory reform is on the way – targeting the financial sector as well as the General Administration of Sport.

Announcing the campaign, CCDI chief Li Xi, one of the country’s most powerful officials, pointed to corruption and “deep-seated systemic and mechanical problems” in football, and vowed to “provide strong protection for the building of [China as] a sports powerhouse”.

Du is among dozens of officials caught up in the latest efforts to tackle corruption in Chinese football.

Eight former and current CFA officials are currently under investigation, including its former president Chen Xuyuan and Li Tie, the former coach of the men’s national team and a former English Premier League player.

Other officials being investigated include the head of the CFA’s disciplinary committee, Wang Xiaoping, and the director of its competition department, Huang Song.

The General Administration of Sport oversees and regulates sporting activities in China and is also involved in planning big international events like last year’s Winter Olympics.

After the Games, President Xi Jinping said Beijing aimed to “promote the country’s overall strength and competitiveness in international competitive sports, and step up efforts to build China into a country that is strong on sports”.