|China's national team have also been involved in bribery scandals [GALLO/GETTY]
China's new football boss pledged to attack corruption and lift the fortunes of the struggling national team in the wake of the arrest of top officials in a match-fixing scandal.
The widely disparaged Chinese Football Association (CFA) faces numerous "difficult hurdles,'' starting with restoring its public image, Wei Di said at his first news conference since taking up the job last month.
Wei's predecessor Nan Yong, his deputy Yang Yimin, the former head of refereeing and a marketing executive at the CFA were among more than 20 officials arrested or detained in the last two months on suspicion of match-fixing.
"We must crack down on cheating and bribery and improve management and
organisational problems in the league, but we should also look to our problems as a chance to start anew,'' Wei said.
A sweeping probe of match fixing and bribery allegations has netted more than a dozen players and officials, but Wei was quick to defend the integrity of the organisation:
"I do not agree that the CFA are all liars ... The behaviour of those individuals does not represent the CFA," he said.
"The problem is that the CFA administrative system is far behind the development of professional football ... the match-fixing scandals are to some extent related to the system," he added.
"The ethics of football workers need to be strengthened. So far four CFA officials have been taken under judicial action or detention. It reflects an ethical problem in the CFA administration."
The association faced further disgrace with media reports last week that Chinese players paid large bribes for places at the national football team's training camp, and even bigger ones to play in international matches.
"The credibility of CFA was damaged by the decline of the national team and the scandals in the professional league," Wei said.
"Our target is to profoundly improve the professional game in China and our work would then revive our credibility"
Chinese Football Assoc.
"Our target is to profoundly improve the professional game in China and our work would then revive our credibility."
Wei said he had met Italian tyre maker Pirelli, which last year signed a three-season deal as title sponsor of the top flight Chinese Super League (CSL), and it had agreed to continue its backing.
"There is no problem of our sponsor quitting the CSL," he said.
The CFA was planning for a normal start to the CSL season on March 20, he added, but the police investigation might disrupt those plans.
"Whether we can start on time is not our decision. It is beyond our authority," he said.
Football is widely popular in China, even though the men's national team is currently ranked No. 97 in the world.
Wei said he will emphasise youth programs, team management, and coaching
in hopes of turning China's men's squad into a "first rate Asian team,'' and restoring the women's team to global prominence. He also promised to invest in technology to monitor potential cheating in the league.
Wei is the former head of China's Water Sports Administration, and has also been in charge of China's boxing and weightlifting organisations, but he has little experience in football, according to the official Xinhua News Agency
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) earlier said it was monitoring the ongoing scandal in China.
"AFC has always taken a very strong stance against match-fixing," the continental governing body said in a statement.
"This is a disease that needs to be cured with strict sanctions along with educational programmes.
"AFC will continue to monitor the situation in China and await the results of the investigation."