BEIJING: Chen Xuyuan, a former president of the Chinese Football Association, has been sentenced to life in prison for bribery, according to the country’s state media.

In January, he pleaded guilty to taking bribes worth a total of 81 million yuan ($11.2m; £8.9m).

An anti-corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping has cut through sport, banking and the military.

In football, more than a dozen coaches and players have been investigated.

The trial at the Intermediate People’s Court of Huangshi in central China revealed Chen’s illicit activities from 2010 to 2023, which included his earlier role as the president and chairman of Shanghai International Port Group.

Prosecutors said Chen accepted money and valuables in exchange for his help with obtaining project contracts and arranging sporting events.

The court ruling said he had brought “tremendous damage” to China’s football cause, according to the state-controlled Xinhua news agency.

State media also said that three other senior football officials were sentenced on Tuesday to between eight and 14 years in prison for corruption.

Earlier this year, an ex-Everton midfielder and former head coach of China’s national men’s soccer team, Li Tie, confessed to fixing matches and offering bribes to people, including Chen, to get China’s top coaching job.

China’s foreign ministry also confirmed that South Korea’s Son Jun-ho, who played for Shandong Taishan, was held in police custody in relation to a bribery case. South Korea’s foreign ministry said this week that he had been released from detention.

In the past President Xi has voiced his ambition to turn China into a major footballing nation. In 2011, he spoke of his ‘three wishes’ for Chinese football: to qualify for the World Cup again, to host the tournament and to one day win the trophy.

Over the past decade, clubs in China’s Super League have spent huge sums of money to attract some of the world’s top players, including Brazilian midfielder Oscar, former Argentina forward Carlos Tevez and Belgian international Axel Witsel.

However, that resulted in clubs piling up debts and the CFA announced a salary cap in 2020.

At the time, it said the move was aimed to focus investment on developing homegrown talent instead of importing international stars.

Now, only a small number of foreign players remain in the league.