Two Chinese Football Clubs Face Relegation for Gambling

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BEIJING - (AFP) ---Two top Chinese football clubs could be relegated for match-fixing and gambling, a league official said Monday, amid a major crackdown to rid the troubled sport of corruption.

Guangzhou GPC and Chengdu Blades face demotion to the second division, while second division Qingdao Hailifeng could be disqualified entirely, said Ma Chengquan, director of the Chinese Football League.

"It's just an initial punishment decision. There will be a hearing this afternoon -- we will listen to the clubs' statements," Ma told AFP.

Qingdao Hailifeng also face a fine of 200,000 yuan (30,000 dollars), he said.

A formal final decision would be announced later in the week, he added.

The teams can appeal, "but the mountain of evidence unearthed during the nationwide crackdown on gambling means they have little chance of succeeding", the state-run China Daily said.

"We were mentally prepared for such punishment," the newspaper quoted Guangzhou head coach Peng Weiguo as saying. "We will fight on."

Gambling, match-fixing, crooked referees and poor performances by the national team have made the sport the laughing stock of fans and a matter of mounting state concern.

The government in 2006 launched a probe into corruption which has reached the top echelons of the game, leading to the downfall of the head and vice-head of the Chinese Football Association.

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