BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Football Association (CFA) soccer chief Wei Di was “shocked” and “hurt” by the arrest of World Cup referee Lu Jun in the ongoing probe into match-fixing in the domestic game.
Lu, who officiated in two matches at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, was dubbed the “golden whistle” for his supposed integrity when China was in the thrall of the earlier “black whistles” scandal some eight years ago.
“I was really shocked and hurt when Lu’s name cropped up in the scandal,” Wei told Soccer News. “He is undoubtedly a first-rate referee in terms of working ability, but his morals are a far cry from his ‘golden whistle’ reputation.”
One of three referees arrested in the last week, Lu faces punishments ranging from an administrative sanction to the death penalty, depending on the amount of money involved, if he is found guilty of having accepted bribes as a public servant.
The others arrested were 45-year-old Guangzhou official Zhou Weixin, who like Lu was retired, and Huang Junjie, an active FIFA international referee since 1998.
Huang, 43, has taken charge of several internationals, including World Cup qualifiers involving Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Wei, who said the police had not told him why the three officials had been arrested, took up his post after his predecessor Nan Yong became caught up in the scandal, leading to his arrest with his deputy Yang Yimin and referees committee chief Zhang Jianqiang.
The CFA have made the integrity of match officials a central plank in their attempts to reform the game and more than 200 referees were last week sent on a five-day “Anti-corruption Rectification Education Camp”.
Wei said in future the selection of referees for matches would be an independent process.
“We will adopt a new mechanism to improve our management. No leader of the Chinese Football Association, including me, can decide which referee to use,” he said.
As well as the individual prosecutions, Guangzhou and Chengdu clubs were relegated from the top flight Chinese Super League (CSL), while a second division Qingdao club have been kicked out of professional football altogether for match-fixing.
The new CSL season is scheduled to begin on March 27.