SEOUL: South Korean football officials have decided to scrap the
K-League Cup as part of a raft of sweeping changes made to avoid a
repeat of last year's damaging match-fixing scandal.
After the government waded into
the scandal by threatening harsh crackdowns on illegal sports gambling
and corruption, the K-League moved quickly to repair the game's battered
image before the league's new season begins this weekend.
'We've made extra efforts to ensure fair and
transparent officiating,' K-League commissioner Chung Mong Kyu told the
Yonhap news agency yesterday. 'Games will be refereed in acceptable and
South Korean football's image
was left battered last year after a probe into match-fixing allegations
led to nearly 50 players being arrested.
It was the worst scandal to hit the
29-year-old K-League, with a former coach and player, who Korean media
linked to the match-fixing ring, found dead in separate incidents after
At one point, the government even threatened
to shut down the K-League altogether unless it cleaned up its act, and
more recent tough-talking appears to have hastened the new-look format.
Officials decided to drop the K-League Cup as
most of the games the arrested players had tried to fix took place in
the low-key competition, which is less prestigious than the Korean FA
Cup and where clubs fielded weakened teams.
Games took place on weekdays without
television coverage, giving gambling brokers the opportunity to bribe
players and fix matches.
Chung also said the K-League would bring in a
split system this year, dividing the 16 clubs into two groups of eight
based on their records after 30 matches.
They will then play seven more games, once
against each other, with the worst two clubs in the lower half relegated
to the second division next year.
'We believe the split system will keep things interesting until the end,' said Chung. 'Teams will stay competitive.'
After allegations began to spill over into
professional baseball and volleyball, South Korea's government declared a
'state of emergency' on match-fixing.
The government promised a zero-tolerance
policy, even monitoring matches and threatening to hold clubs directly
accountable and have them kicked out of the K-League.
In a separate development, South Korean
prosecutors have gathered testimony regarding allegations of spot-fixing
in professional baseball, local media reported yesterday.
A former college baseball player with the
surname Kim, arrested last weekend over alleged ties to fixing,
testified that the problem was more widespread than first suspected.
Senior prosecutor Park Eun Seok told Yonhap:
'Our basic policy is to stay focused on the allegations we have now.
But, if we obtain concrete evidence that points to additional fixing, we
can broaden our investigation.'
Kim was arrested on suspicion of introducing
two active players in the Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO), the
nation's top baseball league, to a gambling broker.
Law officials had initially thought the
betting ring had attempted to sway the outcome of five or six KBO games.
A broker linked to Kim is also under arrest.