The head of China's football ruling body quit Thursday, state media said, plunging the sport into new controversy with reports his exit was linked to a row over the contract of the national team's Spanish coach.
Wei Di stepped down as chief of the Chinese Football Association after a three-year tenure which saw the sport's shameful past of match-fixing and bribery finally confronted, but poor results from the national side.
The 58-year-old oversaw a financial drive to improve China's performance on the pitch, centred on the appointment of former Real Madrid and Spain boss Jose Antonio Camacho on a reported $8 million-a-year contract in 2011.
Sources cited by official news agency Xinhua appeared to suggest Wei, who was "close to the age of retirement", was forced out over poor results and a need to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
During Wei's tenure, the team failed to reach the 2014 World Cup after finishing third in a group topped by Iraq and Jordan.
But other reports said unspecified "internal conflicts" were responsible, while Chinese Internet portal Netease cited an unnamed insider saying Wei was blamed for a "loophole" in Camacho's contract requiring the CFA to pay his income tax.
CFA officials had expected corporate sponsors to pay the tax but they had refused, the website said.
"There are a lot of people looking at the CFA and Wei Di about this matter and wondering if there will be explanation," it added.
No-one from the CFA was immediately available to comment.
Wei oversaw a crackdown on match-fixing and bribe-taking which saw his predecessors Nan Yong and Xie Yalong jailed for corruption, along with a number of former international footballers.