January 27 – AFC Champions League holders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from South Korea have filed an urgent request for provisional measures at the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a bid to overcome the ban from Champions League competition imposed on them by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for match-fixing.
The AFC has increasingly taken a lead in confronting match-fixing and corruption, both present and historical, head on. In the last few months the AFC has banned players from Nepal and Laos for match manipulation; Timor Leste players and officials for false passports; and Brazilian Wanderley for passport fraud.
It is a zero tolerance approach that is being backed up disciplinary committee rulings.
Jeonbuk were sanctioned for their involvement in the 2013 and 2014 match-fixing and bribery scandals that influenced the outcome of the 2013 and 2014 K League seasons.
Jeonbuk now seeks an order staying the execution of the challenged decision so that they can defend their title this season. CAS says it intends to issue a decision by February 3.
In issuing its decision on the Jeonbuk bribery scandals, the AFC said that: “Such indirect involvement was found to be in contravention of Article 11.8 of the Entry Manual for the AFC Club Competitions 2017-2020. As such, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) were deemed not to have met the sporting criteria to participate in the AFC Champions League 2017.”
Jeonbuk had already been deducted nine points and fined $121,170 by the K League’s disciplinary committee in September for payments a club scout made to referees in 2013. Last May, prosecutors charged two referees in South Korea’s top league with accepting bribes totalling 5 million won ($5,651) from a Jeonbuk Motors club scout, with three payments of 1 million won each ($1,130) made to one official and two to the other.
The scout was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term for bribery by the Busan District Court.
It could be argued that Jeonbuk should never have been allowed to play in the AFC Champions League in the first instance as without the match-fixing bribes they might not have qualified.
Jeonbuk won the AFC Champions League last November after a 3-2 aggregate win over Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates.
The AFC recently published a comprehensive route map for the fight against match-fixing that has been widely commended in football circles as a blueprint for tackling perhaps the biggest issue threatening the integrity of the game.
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