FA lets Grobbelaar play on

`Thorough investigation' promised over claims that goalkeeper was paid pounds 40,000 to fix game
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The Southampton goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was last night cleared to continue playing while the Football Association carries out a ``thorough and urgent'' investigation into allegations that he received a payment of pounds 40,000 to fix the result of a game. If the claims - which Grobbelaar strenuously denies - are proven, he could be banned from football for life and face criminal charges.

The accusations were made in yesterday's Sun newspaper after reporters had confronted Grobbelaar at Gatwick Airport as he was about to fly to Harare, where he is due to play for his home country, Zimbabwe. The claims about one of football's most respected and best-loved characters have rocked the sport. If proven, it could be the worst betting and bribery scandal for 30 years.

The FA have no plans to prevent the 37-year-old ``Clown Prince'' of goalkeepers from appearing in Sunday's international against Zaire. Southampton do not have a game for nine days and by then the game's ruling body expects the position to be ``very much clearer''. The FA has promised to ``ruthlessly root out'' any form of corruption, and said that Southampton and Liverpool - for whom Grobbelaar was playing last season when it was alleged that he agreed to throw a match against Newcastle - the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association have all pledged full co-operation. The Sun has agreed to hand over information on which the claims are based.

Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, said yesterday: ``There is no suggestion that today's allegations are anything but an isolated case. We are determined to keep football above the suspicion of corruption in any form.''

Kelly said he had not yet spoken to Grobbelaar. Asked if there was any problem with him playing on, Kelly said: ``Southampton are standing by the player and he has reportedly issued a denial, so until we have had a look at it in more detail I think it would be wrong to prejudge the issue.'' He said it was not necessary for the FA to call in the police because ``if they need to they will get involved irrespective of my say-so. Football isn't above the law.''

After learning of the reporters' claims, Grobbelaar left Gatwick without boarding his flight, and is understood to have gone immediately into discussions with his lawyers. His whereabouts yesterday were unknown. Grobbelaar refused to make any comment, but he later rebutted all accusations in a telephone conversation with Lawrie McMenemy, the director of football at Southampton.

The Sun claimed to have secretly filmed Grobbelaar admitting that he threw the game at Newcastle in November last year. His pounds 40,000 is said to have come from a betting syndicate in the Far East, which are alleged to have netted more than pounds 3m in a wager on the score. Newcastle beat Liverpool 3-0.

Grobbelaar is also alleged to have revealed other games in which he could have earned large sums. He said he was promised pounds 50,000 if he ensured Southampton lost by one goal against Manchester City last weekend. The game finished 3-3. There was big money at stake if Southampton had lost by a single goal to Coventry in September. ``Two minutes into the game I pushed the ball into the back of the net,'' he is quoted as saying. Southampton won 3-1.

A report in today's Sun also quotes him on Liverpool's game with Manchester United last January in which it is claimed he made two ``blinding'' but unintentional saves. ``Do you know how much money I lost? A hundred and twenty five thousand pounds in cash.'' The newspaper says Grobbelaar was lured into his alleged disclosures by a former friend and business partner, Chris Vincent, who allegedly persuaded him to accept a payment of pounds 2,000, a retainer to be paid every two weeks with a view to his throwing a match later in the season. It is claimed the game he had chosen was Southampton's visit to Anfield next March. The Sun supplied television news bulletins with video film of him apparently receiving pounds 2,000. According to the Sun, Grobbelaar admitted receiving the pounds 2,000, but denied ever having tried to fix a game. ``I've never attempted to throw a game in my life,'' he said.

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