Football stars held over `bribes'

Police question Grobbelaar, Fashanu and Segers about match-rigging allegations
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The Independent Online
Football stars Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu and Hans Segers were in custody last night after raids by police investigating allegations of match-rigging.

The goalkeepers, Grobbelaar, 37, who plays for Southampton and Zimbabwe, and Segers, 33, of Wimbledon, were arrested at their Hampshire homes early yesterday. Fashanu, 31, the Aston Villa and former Wimbledon striker and co-host of London Weekend Television's Gladiators programme, was detained at an address near Birmingham hours later.

All three were being questioned by Hampshire detectives at police stations in the county. Police also raided two addresses in London, arresting Fashanu's girlfriend, Melissa Kassamapsi, and a Malaysian businessman, Heng Suan Lim.

Detective Inspector Rod Davis said the arrests were "in connection with allegations of corruption regarding league football matches". He added: "We are looking at a linking of the inquiry as far as the individuals are concerned."

The arrests come four months after police launched an inquiry into newspaper allegations that Grobbelaar had accepted cash bribes to throw matches.

The arrests are the latest blow to the tarnished image of the sport. Football bodies were yesterday quick to defend the game against suggestions of a widespread conspiracy to fix games. FA spokesman, David Davies, said: "We remain convinced corruption is not rife in our national sport."

The association had "every confidence" in the way the police investigation was proceeding. The FA's own inquiry had been delayed on legal advice.

Grobbelaar looked shocked as he was led from his house at Lymington, in the New Forest, after detectives spent an hour questioning him. Police held Segers for three hours while they searched his house before driving the Dutch-born player off in an unmarked car.

Twenty officers searched four properties and seized property and documents. Det Ch Insp Davis said the inquiry involved several matches but declined to specify which ones.

The FA said last night that it was up to the three clubs concerned to decide if the players can carry on playing in the immediate future. The FA was supported by Fifa, the sport's world governing body. "We should not rush into the feeling that it is a problem of epidemic proportions when all we have is a few allegations which are not yet proven," Keith Cooper, a Fifa spokesman, said.

Wimbledon's manager, Joe Kinnear, said: "It came like a bolt out of the blue." He added: "I phoned Hans on the night the Grobbelaar story came out. He assured me he was not involved in anything untoward to do with bribery or scandal." Wimbledon's owner, Sam Hammam, said: "Hans is one of my footballing children. I can't believe he would have let the club or team down in any way."

Southampton's director of football, Lawrie McMenemy, said: "All I know is that Bruce has been taken to a police station to answer further questions. We have got a game to play at The Dell today and will have to wait and see if he can play."

Spokeswomen for Aston Villa and LWT would not comment on Fashanu's position.

Brendan Batson, of the Professional Footballers' Association, said he was "shocked". "This season has just been a catalogue of bad news for football. ... Our biggest concern is that there is a growing perception the game is riddled with corruption - and all of us involved in it know that is simply not the case."

The investigation began after allegations in the Sun newspaper that Grobbelaar had been paid by a Malaysian gambling syndicate to fix the result of matches. Grobbelaar vehemently denies the allegations and has issued a libel writ against the Sun.