China drafts in foreign refs to halt controversies
Shanghai - The Chinese FA said Thursday it will bring in foreign referees to officiate selected Super League games starting this weekend and later introduce the use of video replay in response to recent pitch controversies.
Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson will oversee Saturday's game between Tianjin Quanjian and Shandong Luneng, accompanied by another two Swedish assistants, the Chinese Football Association said on its website.
French referee Tony Chapron will officiate a Sunday game between Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Teda.
The CFA will invite "high-level European and American" referee teams to judge key matches to "help finish the league smoothly," the statement said.
The league also will bring in additional video referees on a trial basis near the close of the current season next month and will officially introduce the practice next year, it added.
Chinese football has a history of controversy involving referees and in 2009 launched a high-profile crackdown on match-fixing and other corruption in the sport that led to dozens of arrests and prison sentences.
The two Tianjin clubs triggered an FA investigation after relegation-threatened Teda stunned Fabio Cannavaro's heavily favoured Quanjian 4-1 last month.
Four match officials were beaten up after a second-tier league match in July after the referee ordered extra injury time and a debatable penalty that turned the game into a draw.
CFA vice president Zhang Jian had admitted in August that "there were rather big controversies with the referees' decisions in some games".
Foreign officials have previously been employed in the past but that was stopped beginning last year in a bid to cultivate the league's own domestic refereeing corps.
However, the latest CFA statement indicated a reversal of that plan.
"To improve the abilities of referees is a main part of the Chinese FA's job. Inviting high-level foreign referees will help further improve referee accuracy in key matches and provide domestic referees with opportunities for learning and exchange," it said.