When fans in China tuned in their television sets to the all-powerful state sports channel to watch their country take on Japan this weekend, they got a surprise: they were instead treated to the local version of a long-running European gameshow.
Reuters reports that “In Sunday’s sports news bulletins, CCTV-5 did not mention the 0-0 result, or even that the match itself had taken place, local newspapers reported.”
This comes in the wake of a match-fixing scandal that has rocked Chinese football to its core, with many top officials, including the former head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), under police investigation.
The task of reviving Chinese football falls to Wei Di, the new head of the CFA, who said “Chinese football has degraded to an intolerable level. It has hurt the feelings of fans and Chinese people at large.”
The level of corruption has even caused concern for Hu Jintao, China’s president, and the dramatic action with the arrests of top officials and the black-out of the sport from television screens could be taken as a positive: serious action is finally being taken to deal with the endemic problem of the “black whistles” in the game. Either that, or the sport is done for.
The timing is crucial: football is enormously popular, but so of course are many other sports. The NFL made a big push this weekend to spread the popularity of the Super Bowl there. China’s Super League is due to start play in May, but might be delayed as the investigation into match-fixing continues; what’s important is that this time, real reform comes that can take football forward.
- The English press finally wises up to the possibility that the Bundesliga might be a decent model of financial sanity, with Patrick Barclay asking “Is the German model of football administration the way forward for the game in England?” He looks at an annual report on the Bundesliga’s finances, which show the league as a whole less in debt than Manchester United alone, yet still with ticket prices laughably lower than the Premier League.
- The Daily Mail says Manchester United fans are planning a boycott of season ticket purchases, to hit the Glazers in the pocket for inflicting said debt on the club as the “Green and Gold” campaign ramps-up, though the piece offers few details. We’ll take a look in more depth at this later today.
- Tim Vickery looks at the complicated resolution to the controversy over Mexican clubs in the Copa Libertadores, following last year’s swine flu panic.
- Peter Storrie, somehow back in charge at Portsmouth, pleads for time. Again. Meanwhile, in the same report, it’s said that “An Irish/American consortium is in talks about becoming the fifth owners of the club this season with the Hong Kong-based Chainrai, who exercised his right to take control of the club on Thursday.”
The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.