BEIJING: The latest round of football matchfixing trials in China has seen four  referees, including a former World Cup match official, jailed for to up to seven years – with the start of the new season less than a month away.

State media has confirmed earlier reports that more than 60 local players, referees, coaches and officials had gone on trial last December after a two-year investigation into links between gambing and match-fixing. 

Xinhua news agency said that Lu Jun, a referee at the 2002 World Cup, had been sentenced by the Intermediate People’s Court in the northeastern city of Dandong to five years and six months for accepting bribes and had personal property worth $15,900 confiscated.

Three other referees – Huang Junjie, Zhou Weixin and Wan Daxue – were sentenced to seven, three-and-a-half and six years, respectively, for fixing matches.

Lu Feng, the former general manager of Super League, a company financed by China’s soccer administration and clubs to run the top-flight domestic competition, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for bribery.

On Saturday a court in Tieling, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, is expected to hand down sentences to former vice-president of the Chinese Football Association Yang Yimin and other CFA and club officials.

The trials are coming to a conclusion less than a month before China’s top-flight domestic league kicks off its new season on March 10. Continuing investigations are overshadowing the preparations of  Shandong Luneng, Henan Jianye, Changchun Yatai, Jiangsu Shuntian and Shanghai Shenhua – new club of veteran France striker Nicolas Anelka and coach Jean Tigana.