As part of a nationwide crackdown on organized gambling within China’s scandal-ridden football leagues, police detained at least 16 people yesterday. Those arrested include the manager of the Guangzhou Yiyao football club and three other top club officials, plus several former coaches, players, and association members.
One of the men detained, Wang Xin, was actually wanted by Interpol for his link to a match fixing scandal in Singapore in 2007. The fiasco led to six players ending up in a jail, but Wang somehow escaped punishment.
While police have not released many details about the motivation behind the arrests, China’s Xinhua news agency speculates that “match fixing, betting and black (crooked) referees are without a doubt among the main reasons”. Xinhua further suggests that “the level of Chinese football has dropped in recent years and the reasons football has fallen into such a deep valley are many.”
While it is legal to bet on sports in China, betting is restricted to official channels, including the country’s national Sports Lottery. Sports betting through unlicensed bookies is not allowed. The suspects who were detained are believed to have set up both domestic and overseas internet betting operations, and to have fixed matches by paying off players and coaches in order to secure guaranteed returns on their investments.
The matches affected by the operation include games from both the 2006 and 2007 seasons of China’s Super League. The operation was so well organized that it was able to coerce teams into ending games with a particular point spread, thereby boosting the winnings of those who placed the right bets.
Online sportsbooks in China all focus heavily on football, since 90% of all sports betting in the country revolves around the sport. Recent years have seen a drop match attendance and fan loyalty due to a decline in the overall quality of the sport, but it nonetheless maintains its position in the center of China’s sports world.