A Chinese court on Thursday jailed four referees and an official for their roles in a corruption scandal that brought the country's football league to its knees, the state Xinhua news agency said.
The four defendants, among them Lu Jun, who officiated at the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup, were the first to be sentenced over the match-fixing and gambling scandal since it was exposed two years ago.
Lu's crimes were linked to domestic league matches, state media has reported.
Gambling, match-fixing, crooked referees and poor performances by the national team have made the sport the laughing stock of increasingly indifferent Chinese fans, and a matter of state concern.
The scandal brought down top Chinese Football Association (CFA) heads Nan Yong and his successor Xie Yalong and several vice heads, including Yang Yimun, who will be sentenced on Saturday.
The court in northeast China's Liaoning province sentenced Lu, China's best-known referee and once dubbed "golden whistle", to five and a half years in jail and confiscated property valued at 100,000 yuan (about $16,000), Xinhua said.
Former referees Huang Junjie, Wan Daxue and Zhou Weixin were jailed for seven years, six years and three and a half years respectively.
The court also sentenced the former head of the China Superleague's commercial arm Lu Feng to six years and a half years in prison. The cases of Nan and Xie have yet to go to trial.
According to state media, CFA officials routinely fixed matches, including national team and league games, by allegedly buying off the teams and referees involved.
Calls to the Dongdong court and to lawyers went unanswered Thursday.
According to state media, up to 24 league and club officials will be sentenced by a court in Liaoning on Saturday.