In 2002, Lu Jun became the first ever Chinese referee to officiate a FIFA World Cup game. On Thursday, he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for accepting bribes and fixing Chinese league games, according to Xinhua.
Lu is headed to prison after he admitted taking payments totaling £82,000 ($128,000) to fix seven games involving four clubs. He is one of nine people — including four other referees — who were convicted for their roles in the wide-ranging scandal.
Once known as China’s “Golden Whistle,” Lu was twice named referee of the year by the Asian Football Confederation. But his fall from grace began as early as 2003, when he began fixing games. Today, he could be considered China’s “Black Whistle”.
Domestic soccer is widely ignored in China, as fans prefer to watch the big European clubs. This is partly because the Chinese game is riddled with allegations of corruption and match-fixing. Gamblers and crime syndicates have been accused of influencing players, clubs and referees for years.
The government decided to crack down on the activity in 2009, and Jun is one of several high-profile figures that were caught in the sting. Former vice president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), Yang Yimin, and former referees’ director Zhang Jianqiang will be sentenced on Saturday.
Current CFA vice president Nan Yong and his predecessor Xie Yalong will stand trial at a later date. They are described as the “bigger fishes” at the heart of the scandal.