HONG KONG: Chinese football authorities have announced foreign referees will be drafted in to work on the final weeks of the Chinese Super League season in a move to boost the standard of officiating in the big-spending league.
Sweden's Jonas Eriksson and Tony Chapron from France will referee Tianjin Quanjian's meeting with Shandong Luneng and Shanghai Shenhua's clash with Tianjin Teda respectively as the first part of a move to "improve the accuracy of officiating", the Chinese Football Association said in a statement on Thursday.
"In order to ensure a smooth finish to the season, from Round 27 onwards the Chinese Football Association will invite referees from Europe and the Americas to officiate on crucial games," the statement said.
"The improvement of the quality of officiating has been an important part of the CFA's work and inviting established foreign referees will improve the accuracy of officiating while also providing education and communication opportunities for Chinese referees."
While the move is seen as an attempt to improve the standard of officiating in the four remaining rounds of the domestic season, the country has had to address serious issues in the past.
Match fixing scandals have plagued football since the game turned professional in China in 1994 with the sending to prison of former World Cup referee Lu Jun for accepting bribes in 2012 one of many high profile examples.
Two of the clubs featuring in this weekend's matches - Tianjin Quanjian and Tianjin Teda - are currently under investigation by the Chinese Football Association following allegations of match fixing in their meeting last month, which relegation-threatened Teda won 4-1.
However, the Chinese Football Association said that the move - and plans to implement the use of video assistant referee technology until the end of the season and for all of the 2018 campaign - is an attempt to further develop officiating in the league.
"The Chinese Football Association has enhanced training for referees, putting emphasis on monitoring and regulation, to build professional refereeing teams while implementing new technologies and exploring a new path for the development of Chinese referees," they said.
"At the moment, the Chinese Football Association is working with FIFA and the International Football Association Board in order to implement the video assistant officiating system. It will be tested during the final phase of this season and completely implemented in the 2018season."
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)