The so-called “player trading” program, in which players are paid to join professional soccer teams, has been exposed. Eleven people, including professional team officials, university leaders, and agents, were charged with embezzlement and graft and handed over to trial. The scandal has made waves because of the alleged involvement of Choi Tae-wook, who served as the national soccer team coach until last year, and the soccer world is nervous about the possibility of the investigation expanding to the entire professional soccer industry.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office announced the results of its investigation into professional soccer recruitment irregularities on the 13th and said it had indicted 11 people, including leaders of professional clubs and universities, on charges of embezzlement and graft for accepting money in exchange for recruitment to K League 1 and 2 professional soccer clubs from 2017 to this year. Among them, Lee Jong-gul, the former CEO of the Ansan Greeners, and his agent Choi Mo were indicted, and eight others, including former coach Choi Tae-wook, were indicted without charge. Agent Mo, who is fleeing overseas, is not being prosecuted.
According to prosecutors, Lee Jong-geol, the former CEO, is suspected of receiving payments for a foreign car worth 50 million won directly from Mo’s father in exchange for joining the team since last year, and receiving more than 27 million won, including expensive watches and cash, from agent Choi. Lim Jong-heon reportedly received 9 million won in exchange for being appointed acting head coach.
Former coach Lim Jong-heon has already been detained for taking 45 million won from agent Choi in exchange for signing players and extorting 60 million won from a player’s father. He is also accused of donating 9 million won to Lee in exchange for his appointment as head coach. The head of the power enhancement team, Bae Mo, as well as the head coach of University A, the coach of University B, and the head coach of University C, are all suspected of receiving between 7 million and 60 million won from Choi in exchange for personnel expenses and player recruitment.
Choi, who was named as a key figure in the case, has already been detained on charges of bribery for giving a total of 129 million won to the five. Choi is accused of receiving 60 million won ($27 million) from the players’ parents and giving it to Lee, or 95 million won in personnel fees from three A-team players who joined the pros, of which 60 million won was given to the A-team coach.
Former coach Choi Tae-wook is accused of colluding in the process of agent Choi’s embezzlement. Choi was reportedly a past gift from a player who was trying to join the team by paying money to three Ansan club officials, including the CEO. Along with Choi, the head coach of the soccer team at a local elementary school was also indicted on charges of embezzlement.
The prosecution previously secured clues while reviewing the fraudulent non-remand case of agent Choi Moe, and then proceeded with the investigation by securing evidence through re-investigation of related parties, account tracking, and raids. It is known that agent Choi Mo-soo has already stated that she delivered money to CEO Lee Jong-gul and the head of the power enhancement team. 메이저놀이터
The soccer world was also shaken up. The KFA first excluded Choi Tae-wook from the federation’s Technical Study Group (TSG) and will discuss further disciplinary action depending on the outcome of the trial. The Korea Football Association, which has already been informed of the misconduct by prosecutors, will also convene a fairness committee according to the indictment and decide on disciplinary action after watching the outcome of the trial.
Ansan is not the only club to have signed players through Choi’s agent, so the possibility of an expanded investigation cannot be ruled out. A prosecution official said, “Player managers are a structural and painful disease that reduces players to a means of bribery, hinders the development of professional clubs, frustrates the hopes of striving players, and undermines the authority of dedicated leaders,” adding, “We will do our best to maintain the prosecution so that the defendants receive punishment commensurate with their crimes.”