Beijing: A Chinese court has sentenced four soccer referees, including a former World Cup match official, to up to seven years in jail for involvement in match-fixing and gambling, state media reported on Thursday.   

About 60 local players, referees, coaches and officials were put on trial in December following a two-year investigation into match-fixing that has blighted the country's struggling soccer leagues in recent years.   

Lu Jun, a referee at the 2002 World Cup, was sentenced by the Intermediate People's Court in the northeastern city of Dandong to five years and six months for accepting bribes, Xinhua news agency said. He was also ordered to surrender personal property worth 100,000 yuan (USD15,900).   

Three other referees -- Huang Junjie, Zhou Weixin and Wan Daxue -- were sentenced to seven, three-and-a-half and six years, respectively, for fixing matches.   

Lu Feng, the former general manager of Super League, a company financed by China's soccer administration and clubs to run the top-flight domestic competition, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for bribery.   

A separate court in Tieling, a city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, was expected to hand down sentences to former vice-president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) Yang Yimin and other CFA and club officials on Saturday, Xinhua said.    

Chinese soccer has been dogged by graft and match-fixing scandals for years, which along with violence on and off the pitch, led to fans turning away from the domestic game in droves.   

The rash of convictions has occurred less than a month before China's top-flight domestic league kicks off its new season on March 10.    

A number of local clubs, including Shandong Luneng, Shanghai Shenhua, Henan Jianye, Changchun Yatai and Jiangsu Shuntian, are embroiled in the investigations, leaving administrators with a potential headache as to their participation in the league.