SEOUL (Reuters) - Reigning Asian club champions Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea will be unable to defend their title over their involvement in a 2013 bribery scandal, the continent’s soccer governing body said on Wednesday.
Jeonbuk were docked nine points and fined $91,000 by the K League’s disciplinary committee in September for payments a club scout made to referees in 2013.
The club, who finished second in last season’s K League Classic, were crowned champions of Asia in November after sealing a 3-2 aggregate victory over United Arab Emirates team Al Ain.
The Asian Football Confederation said the Entry Control Body (ECB), a judicial independent body, has disqualified Jeonbuk from the 2017 Asian Champions League, the continent’s premier club competition.
“... Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors is ineligible to participate in AFC competitions for the 2017 season due to its indirect involvement in activities aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of matches during the 2013 and 2014 K-League seasons,” the AFC said in a statement.
”Such indirect involvement was found to be in contravention of Article 11.8 of the Entry Manual for the AFC Club Competitions 2017-2020.
“As such, Jeonbuk... was deemed not to have met the sporting criteria to participate in the AFC Champions League 2017.”
In May, prosecutors charged two referees in South Korea’s top league with accepting bribes totalling 5 million won ($4,300) from a Jeonbuk Motors club scout, with three payments of 1 million won each made to one official and two to the other.
The scout was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term for bribery by the Busan District Court.
Korea’s Jeju United FC will take Jeonbuk’s place in Group H while Ulsan Hyundai will replace Jeju in the playoffs for the 2017 AFC Champions League.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Pritha Sarkar