Former Chinese Football Association (CFA) referee committee director Zhang Jianqiang became the first person to take the stand on Monday after a two-year investigation into widespread corruption in the Chinese Super League.
The proceedings, closed to the public, were the first of what are sure to be many with over 60 coaches, players, referees, and other officials also facing charges of match fixing and bribery. Notable members of the accused include World Cup 2002 match official Lu Jun and former CFA heads Nan Yong and Xie Yalong.
The scandal, combined with the poor performance of China's national team in failing to qualify for the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, have resulted in fans across China rejecting domestic football in favor of English, Spanish, and other top European leagues.
Only recently has interest begun to return to the CSL after several high profile signings, including Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and former Japanese national team manager Takeshi Okada.
"Football corruption breached the country's law and tarnished the image of the sport as well as the healthy development of soccer in China," the CFA said in a statement. "Corruption exposed flaws in the administrative system and imperfections in the supervision mechanism."
State media reported that the trial verdicts would be announced at an appropriate, but unspecified time.