SEOUL (Reuters) - Defending K League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were docked nine points and fined 100 million won (£70,088.28) by the league’s disciplinary committee on Friday for payments a club scout made to referees in 2013.
In May, prosecutors charged two referees in South Korea’s top league with accepting bribes totalling 5 million won from a Jeonbuk Motors club scout, with three payments of 1 million won each made to one official and two to the other.
On Wednesday, the scout was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term for bribery by the Busan District Court, according to Yonhap News Agency. The scout had said the payments were of a personal nature and not aimed at influencing games.
“We decided to accept the decision and we apologise to the fans for the incident. We will try our best so that this does not happen again,” Jeonbuk spokesman Kim Sang-soo said.
In handing down its punishment, the disciplinary committee said it did not find the team leadership responsible for the payments made by the scout.
According to Yonhap, Jeonbuk could have faced relegation or even expulsion from the league.
After 32 matches, undefeated Jeonbuk are top of the K League standings on 59 points, five clear of second-placed FC Seoul with six fixtures remaining, having seen their 14-point advantage slashed by the penalty.
Jeonbuk, who are bidding to reach the final of the continental club championship for the first time since 2011, beat Korean rivals FC Seoul by 4-1 in the first leg of their Asian Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Bribery allegations have dogged South Korean soccer, prompting K League authorities to introduce a computer-generated allocation system for assigning referees last year.
Editing by John O'Brien