Anger over Grobbelaar court costs

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A row broke out over the failed multi-million pound prosecution of alleged match-fixing in football after former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was yesterday cleared of accepting a pounds 2,000 bribe. The verdict, directed by Mr Justice McCullough after a Winchester jury failed to agree, ended claims of widespread betting corruption that have hung over English football for three years.

As Mr Grobbelaar, currently without a team, described his ordeal as "hell", an MP asked whether it had been right to proceed with an investigation that has led to two long trials and, according to some estimates, costs of up to pounds 20m. Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who is tabling Commons questions to discover how much public money was spent, said: "The whole thing has been quite preposterous and especially the decision to hold a second trial after the first one ended without agreement by the jury. As someone ...who saw the TV and video clips of Grobbelaar ...I cannot imagine how it could be suggested that he threw the games."

There was also anger that the judge refused costs to defendants John Fashanu, a former Wimbledon player, and ex-team-mate Hans Segers, both cleared with Mr Grobbelaar and businessman Heng Suan Lim on Thursday of conspiracy to throw matches.

Mr Justice McCullough said: "It seems clear Mr Fashanu's own conduct brought suspicion on himself and led the prosecution into thinking the case against him was stronger than it was." It is also understood the Inland Revenue may investigate unpaid tax in football after the court heard that players had been accepting money legally to forecast matches for an Indonesian gambling syndicate.

The Football Association has already announced an inquiry into match- forecasting and betting and confirmed last night that it would examine whether Mr Grobbelaar had breached current regulations.

Mr Fashanu, who sold his penthouse to fund his case, said he will appeal against the costs ruling, which could leave him with a personal bill of around pounds 650,000. Mr Segers, who like Mr Grobbelaar received legal aid part-way through the case as funds ran out, will lose pounds 65,000, and his co-defendant at least pounds 30,000. A defence source said later: "Financially this can be described as a Pyrrhic victory."

The theme was taken up by Mr Grobbelaar after the jury, which deliberated for 30 hours in total, said it was unable to reach a verdict on the final charge. At the inconclusive first trial the jury deliberated for 11 hours after a 34-day hearing. The goalkeeper denied accepting pounds 2,000 from his former business partner, Christopher Vincent, to throw matches, in a sting set up by The Sun.

Mr Grobbelaar told a press conference: "The verdicts of today and yesterday are a victory for football. Right from the beginning there has never been a game thrown, either in the future or in the past ...It has been sheer hell for my family. As a man who has seen a lot in life, for me to go through this has been sheer hell." He refused to comment on his legal bill or whether he might continue a libel action against The Sun, which in November 1994 broke the story of the alleged football scandal of the century. The paper indicated that it would fight any action.

Later the Crown Prosecution Service, which confirmed it would not be seeking a second re-trial, defended its handling of the case. "The seriousness of the offences left no doubt that the public interest required a prosecution."

Hampshire police also defended their investigation. Assistant chief constable Peter Linden Jones said they had to investigate "very serious" allegations in The Sun, though the public could now be reassured by the verdict that there was nothing "untoward" in football. Costly case, page 3