Shanghai Shenhua fans
Shanghai Shenhua fans have seen Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in action.

A Chinese football club which signed up former Chelsea stars Didier Drogba and Nicholas Anelka has been hit with a massive fine for corruption.

Shanghai Shenhua was found guilty of match fixing in a probe by officials, which revealed the club fixed a game during a season in which it won the league title.

Drogba joined the club in 2012, long after the offence took place in 2003. But he stayed only a single season at the club, before quitting amid a pay dispute.

Meanwhile, Anelka struggled to adapt to the game in the Far East and also left before the end of his contract.

A probe found that Shenhua offered bribes to officials to ensure a 4-1 scoreline in 2003. The club was fined the equivalent of £103,000 by the Chinese Football Association.

In a widespread corruption scandal across the Chinese league, a total of 33 players and officials caught match fixing have been banned for life.

But the punishments have been described as too lenients by pundits. No club was relegated from the top league for illegal activities, which caused disquiet.

The president of Titan Media, one of China's leading sports publishers, told AFP. "These are not really serious punishments. I do not think this is enough to set an extreme example to warn off future offenders."

"The professional football league is getting more popular and attracting more public attention," he added. "But where there is profit, there will be more people trying to get into it with illegal ways, so it will be an ongoing fight."

A Shenhua source said: "The football association believed the current team isn't completely different to the mainstay of the team back then, so they insisted on the punishment and we cannot do anything about it." 

On the Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, users blamed the football authorities for fostering an atmosphere in which corruption could flourish.

It is reported that match fixing sometimes took place in front of spectators, with little attempt made to hide the corruption.