After years of struggling to shake off bribery charges, shoddy on-field performances and the effects of corrupt refs known as "black whistles", Chinese football has been given its latest red card.
Shanghai Shenhua, which was briefly home to the former Chelsea forwards Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, has been stripped of its 2003 league title, had six points deducted for next season and fined £100,000 as part of a three-year drive to stamp out match fixing in the Chinese Super League (CSL).
Shenhua was found guilty of fixing a game against Shanxi Guoli en route to winning the 2003 championship, the Xinhua news agency reported. Shenhua's main backer, the computer games tycoon Zhu Jun, pictured, wrote on his Weibo microblog that the club suffered from "internal problems".
The Chinese Football Association (CFA) also banned 33 officials and players for life at the conclusion of a three-year investigation into corruption in the CSL, including former football chiefs Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, who are both serving long jail sentences for taking bribes. In total, 12 clubs have been given financial or points penalties, Xinhua reported, including Tianjin Teda and Jilin Yanbian. The punishments came shortly after the CFA chief Wei Di was removed after poor results for the national team, which saw them fail to qualify for the 2012 Olympics or reach the 2014 World Cup, after finishing third in a group topped by Iraq and Jordan.
There were hopes Drogba and Anelka's arrival might revitalise the game in China, but Drogba has since moved to Galatasaray in Turkey, while Anelka has joined Juventus.