Football stars in court to face match-rigging charges

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The Independent Online

Three of the Premier League's top football stars appeared in court for the first time yesterday to face charges of match rigging.

Bruce Grobbelaar, the Southampton and Zimbabwe goalkeeper, John Fashanu the retired Aston Villa striker, and Hans Segers, the Wimbledon goalkeeper, appeared at the magistrates' court in Southampton, Hampshire, with a Malay- sian businessman, Heng Suan Lim, 11 months after the allegations of bribery in British football first surfaced.

All four are charged with conspiring "to give and corruptly to accept gifts of money as inducements improperly to influence the outcome of football matches or as rewards for having done so".

Mr Grobbelaar, 37, faced two further charges. That on 25 November 1993, while still playing for Liverpool, he "corruptly accepted from John Fashanu ... the sum of pounds 40,000 as a reward for having ... improperly influenced the outcome of the Liverpool versus Newcastle United football match on 21 November 1993" - Newcastle won the game 3-0. And that he accepted pounds 2,000 from Christopher Vincent, a former business associate, for "improperly influencing the outcome of a football match or matches".

The Zimbabwe national goalkeeper, dressed in an olive-green suit and white shirt, sat in front of the dock with his co-accused. He spoke to none of them during the 40-minute hearing, but smiled once during representations for the prosecutions by David Evan-Hughes.

Mr Fashanu, 32, a presenter of ITV's Gladiators show, faced charges relating to both of the games on which the prosecution is concentrating. He is alleged to have been responsible for the pounds 40,000 payment to Mr Grobbelaar and for a further payment of pounds 19,000 to Mr Segers.

The charges allege that between 18 and 25 October 1994 he paid Mr Segers for "having improperly influenced the outcome of the Wimbledon versus Liverpool match played on 22 October 1994". The final score was 3-0 to Liverpool.

The second charge against Mr Segers, 33, the former Dutch international keeper, relates to the alleged receipt of the pounds 19,000.

Mr Lim, 29, who described himself as a student and trader, faced only the joint conspiracy charge. Despite earlier media reports describing him as a millionaire, Richard Clark, the deputy stipendiary magistrate for Hampshire, was told that Mr Lim was on income support and had applied for legal aid.

A conspiracy charge against Melissa Kassa-Mapsi, Mr Fash-anu's wife, has been dropped.

All four men were remanded on bail until 1 December, by which time the prosecution is expected to have lodged papers for their committal to Crown Court. Conditions attached to the men's bail require them to lodge their passports with police and not to approach Mr Vincent and John Troup, a Sun reporter expected to be a witness for the prosecution.

After the hearing, David Hewitt, Mr Grobbelaar's solicitor, complained about the delay in getting the case to court. "The matter first came to light 11 months ago," he said.

Outside the court, the players, smiling and looking relaxed, were cheered by fans.