The state of Chinese football has come under criticism from government officials [GALLO/GETTY]
Three leading Chinese Football Association officials are being investigated as part of a wide-ranging probe into match-fixing allegations, according to Chinese state media reports.

The move is the latest in a push to clean up football's image in China and raise the overall standard of play.

Investigators in the north-eastern province of Liaoning were questioning Nan Yong, Yang Yimin, both vice chairmen of the association, along with the former director of its referee committee association, Zhang Jianqiang, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The three were questioned by police to "clarify some facts in several important cases of soccer gambling and illegal manipulating domestic soccer league games by using business bribery", the Xinhua report said.

Jia Xiuquan, former head coach of the Chinese Super League (CSL) club Shanghai Shenhua, was also questioned by police, according to the Beijing Times.

Crackdown

The probe into match-fixing follows a string of comments in recent months by top Communist Party officials on the need to clean up the men's professional game in China, which is widely perceived as being rife with corruption.

"With the full support from the sports department, the crackdown on manipulating domestic soccer matches through commercial bribery has showcased a firm attitude in fighting corruption and rectifying the soccer sector,'' said a national police statement.

At least 21 officials, players and club managers, including Xu Hongtao, the president of Chengdu Blades, owned by England's Sheffield United, have been arrested or detained in the past two months on suspicion of match fixing or gambling, which is illegal in China.

The CFA has cancelled at least two meetings which were to be attended by Nan and Yang, while arranging other officials to take charge of their jobs, the Soccer News said.

Football is hugely popular in China but the national men's team is ranked a lowly No97 in the world, having failed to qualify for the World Cup and the weakness of the domestic league is not a new issue.

Despite that, the top-tier 16-team China Super League is in better shape financially than it has been in years, with attendance hitting a record average of 16,300 a game last season.

Big name brands Nike and Pirelli have made a combined annual commitment of $22 million to sponsor the competition.

Source: Agencies