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Reigning champions in danger of losing AFC Champions League spot

2017/01/12 17:56

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- Reigning Asian club football champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors could lose their chance to defend the title this year due to a bribery scandal, the South Korean pro league office said Thursday.

The K League said the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed that Jeonbuk's eligibility for this year's AFC Champions League (ACL) will be reviewed by an independent judicial body called the Entry Control Body (ECB).

The ECB is external to the AFC and was established in December 2016. It has jurisdiction on reviewing and ruling on a team's eligibility for entering AFC competitions.

Jeonbuk were in trouble last year after one of their scouts was convicted for bribing referees in 2013. They were docked nine points by the K League's disciplinary committee -- which cost them a chance to win their third straight domestic league title -- and were fined 100 million won (US$84,800).

Jeonbuk, however, went on to win the ACL in November by beating the Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates. Jeonbuk also secured their spot in the 2017 ACL by finishing second in the K League Classic.

The two-time ACL winners are in Group H with Adelaide United of Australia, Jiangsu FC of China and a playoff-winning team to be determined later.

An AFC rule states that any club found guilty of match manipulation will be banned from the ACL for one year. The AFC asked Jeonbuk to submit an explanatory document on the bribery scandal by next Tuesday, according to the K League.

According to sources, Adelaide United recently requested the AFC to deny Jeonbuk access.

The ECB is chaired by Liu Chi of China, with Australian judge Rauf Soulio serving as deputy chairman. Other members are from India, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The five-man panel is expected to give its ruling next week.

If Jeonbuk are denied entry into the 2017 ACL, Jeju United, which earned a playoff spot after finishing third in the K League Classic, will take Jeonbuk's spot in Group H. Ulsan Hyundai, No. 4 last year in the domestic league, will get into the playoff in Jeju's stead.

kdon@yna.co.kr

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