FIFA has announced that 41 players from South Korea’s K League have had their lifetime bans extended worldwide, although 21 have been offered a reprieve in the wake of one of the biggest match-fixing scandals to hit world football in recent years.
The 41 had already been banned for life by the Korea Football Association (KFA) following the scandal which was revealed in 2011 and involved matches played the previous year. The scandal led the South Korean government to threaten to wind up the K League if action was not taken, while the country’s domestic cup competition was scrapped over fears it was susceptible to match-fixing attempts. FIFA said that a reprieve had been offered to 21 players who confessed during a voluntary reporting period and expressed “grave regret” about their involvement in match-fixing. The players would have to undergo a probation period of between two and five years, including periods of community service ranging from 200 to 500 hours.
“The probation is voluntary, which means that the respective player has to inform the K-League that he wishes to return to football,” said FIFA in a statement. “At this point, the player then has to commit himself to one of a variety of community services related to football. These services include the provision of coaching classes for local football clubs for youth and adult players, involvement in and support of football for those with disabilities, and the support of ongoing and future domestic anti-match-fixing activities. The reinstatement of the respective player in football after the probation period will only be decided by the Korea Football Association (KFA).”
In the wake of the scandal, the K League opted to revamp its structure by relegating two teams in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons to reduce the top flight to 12 clubs by 2014. The League this month revealed the rebranding of its top two divisions to the K League Classic and the K League.