The Chinese Super League (CSL) season could be delayed after the arrest of several top officials in the ongoing match-fixing scandal, according to the country's new soccer supremo.
China's top flight usually begins in mid-March but the arrests offormer Chinese Football Association (CFA) boss Nan Yong and his deputy Yang Yimin, among others, have thrown preparations for the new season into disarray.
"The CSL will not be cancelled, that's for sure," Wei Di, who took over after Nan was dismissed last month, told Monday's Beijing News.
"We are preparing for a normal beginning but presently the situation is complicated, we have many things to do in very little time. I do not rule out the possibility of a one week delay or so."
More than 20 officials, players and club managers have been arrested or detained in the last two months on suspicion of match-fixing or gambling, which remains illegal in China.
Matters appeared to be further complicated at the weekend when Lu Feng, a protege of Nan and the head of the company which runs the CSL, was reported by local media as "missing."
"I don't know about the details. It is not convenient to comment at this moment," Wei said of the reports.
Lu was responsible for bringing in a three-year title sponsorship deal with Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli last year.
Pirelli China's chief executive Guiseppe Cattaneo said no decision would be made about the sponsorship until after a meeting with the new CFA management on Monday.
"We are still discussing with the new guys at the CFA," told Reuters. "We are reviewing together with these people what is going on and what the situation is."
FIFA are considering meeting with CFA officials over the match-fixing scandal, soccer's world governing body said in an e-mailed reply to questions.
"FIFA are currently taking part in a joint-process of revising the CFA statutes," it read. "We hope to resume this process as soon as possible. Plans to meet with the CFA are currently under consideration."
Chinese soccer has long been regarded as a national disgrace, riddled with corruption, violence, low playing standards and dwindling crowds.
President Hu Jintao made his concern over the game public last October after a flood of similar remarks from other senior officials, an indication the government was finally getting serious about cracking down on the problems.
CFA marketing official Fan Guangming confessed on state television last week to acting as a go-between for match-fixers.
"This did not start just in the last couple of years - it's been going on for many years," he said. "As the administrators we at the CFA have only talked about stamping it out but took few real measures to stop it."