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Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Punished for Bribing Referees

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors found guilty of match fixing by the KFA and K-League
(Photo Credit: Howard Cheng)
After months of investigation, scraps of detail, fan protests and hyperbolic comments on social media, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have been punished for bribing referees to obtain favourable decisions during the 2013 K-League season.

The reigning K-League champions are set to receive a fine of 100 Million Won and a nine point reduction, which will come into effect immediately. With potential punishments ranging up to relegation and dissolving of the club, the KFA have acted as expected based on the precedent set by Gyeongnam, who were punished similarly at the end of last year for bribery in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Jeonbuk were initially charged with of one of their scout’s (identified only as Cha in reports) making five individual payments of One Million South Korean Won (approximately US$1000) to two referees (Ref A receiving 3 payments, Ref B receiving 2) in 2013 in a bid for more favourable decisions.  The referees were also involved in the Gyeongnam scandal and had came forward during their sentencing with information regarding Jeonbuk.

The possibility of title-stripping was mentioned by various outlets but, seeing as Jeonbuk finished 3rd in the season in question, the KFA decided not to exercise such measures. The investigation did also look into subsequent seasons but found no evidence to suggest further improper conduct had taken place.

When publicly announced they were being investigated, the Jeonju-based club stated that the act of the scout in question was of an individual nature, and that the management were unaware of any payments that had taken place. The scout charged with the allegations initially maintained his defence that the money he had transferred had been to junior colleagues to assist with their living costs. These statements have now been disproved otherwise, with the scout pleading not guilty and receiving a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, for bribery.

Intended to add weight to the scout’s claims were the perceived low payment of the referees, who reportedly would have earned around One Million Won per game based on last season’s figures. Although the most used referee could stand to earn a decent living, considering these referee’s were reported as the scout’s juniors, one could have assumed they would be at the lower end of the pay scale and perhaps needed assistance with living costs. Given that they had previously found guilty of accepting bribes however, it was always considered unlikely by onlookers and has now been officially deemed as such. In comparison, the Jeonbuk scout reportedly earned approximately 100 Million Won per year and could make up to an additional 20 Million in bonuses.

Manager Choi Kang-hee had originally said he would be willing to resign in the wake of these reports but, having only been manager for the latter half of that season, it was at the time deemed unnecessary and perhaps as a diversion tactic. His comments that he should be punished instead of the club were certainly eye-catching. In the wake of the investigation’s results however, the fallout may yet see the manager fall on his sword in the coming weeks, especially with the previously denounced rumours linking him to Chinese Super League. He would most likely see out his remaining games this year though before such action takes place.

Jeonbuk will still retain first place in the K-League and are unbeaten. This is in addition to being in the final four of the Asian Champions League where they will go into the Semi-Final 2nd Leg against FC Seoul with a 4-1 aggregate lead on October 19th.

For up-to-date breaking Korean Football news stories in English on this topic and the rest of the leagues, please make sure to follow Korea Football News on Twitter. An opinion piece on these punishments from myself will also follow in due course.

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