Two top-flight Chinese soccer clubs have been relegated to the second division after club officials were found guilty of matchfixing and gambling, state media reported on Monday.
The Chinese Football Association's (CFA) disciplinary committee had decided to relegate Guangzhou GPC and Chengdu Blades, the China Daily newspaper said on its website (www.chinadaily.com.cn), citing the governing body.
The teams would have the right to appeal, the paper added.
The president of Chengdu, owned by English Championship side Sheffield United, was arrested last month in a probe into matchfixing in the country, which has seen more than 20 officials arrested or detained, including the CFA's former chief Nan Yong.
The CFA said that 16 teams would still play in the new Chinese Super League season, though replacements are yet to be named. The season is set to kick off on March 20, but ongoing police investigations could disrupt those plans, officials have said.
The match-fixing crackdown followed calls by top Communist Party officials to clean up the professional game in China, which has long been regarded as a national disgrace, plagued with corruption, violence, low playing standards and dwindling crowds.
Former Sydney FC and North Queensland Fury striker Brendon Santalab plays for Chengdu and his case, he has just signed a new 2 year deal with the Blades after a stellar first season in 2009. Chengdu will fight to keep the sought-after striker who scored 9 goals in 14 games in 2009.
In Guangzhou's case, it also has an Australian side effect given that North Queensland Fury player John Tambouras was close to signing a deal with the Club after an impressive trial.