Football: Grobbelaar and Segers charged by FA with breaches of betting rules

Bruce Grobbelaar and Hans Segers, two of the three footballers cleared of match-fixing at Winchester Crown Court last month, have been charged by the Football Association with breaking its rules on betting. If found guilty, they could face lifetime bans
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The Independent Online
No sooner had Bruce Grobbelaar, Han Segers and John Fashanu been found not guilty at Winchester Crown Court, last month than the Football Association asked Sir John Smith, the former deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to investigate the evidence presented in court.

Yesterday's charges by the FA against Grobbelaar and Segers - Fashanu has retired and is, for the moment at least, out of its jurisdiction - were the result of that investigation and followed consultation with the legal representatives of all three players.

A more serious charge of match-fixing, levelled at Grobbelaar by the FA in November 1994 and suspended pending the criminal proceedings, has been dropped.

At Winchester the players admitted to being paid for forecasting the results of games, a breach of rules on betting tightened after the bribes scandal in the 1960s that effectively ended the careers of a number of players, including the England internationals Peter Swan and Tony Kay.

Announcing the decision David Davies, the FA's director of public affairs, said: "The players and their clubs - Wolverhampton Wanderers and Oxford United respectively - have been informed of this decision this morning. They have 14 days to respond."

The FA is also effectively urging world football's governing body, Fifa, to reject an application by Fashanu, the former Wimbledon player, to become an approved agent. "John Fashanu is now outside the game," Davies said. "He has, however, applied for a Fifa licence to operate as an agent. This has been pending while the criminal proceedings against him were completed.

"Sir John has recommended that details of those proceedings are forwarded immediately to Fifa to help them in their consideration of the application."

Neither Grobbelaar, 39, who won six championship and three European Cup winners medals with Liverpool in the 1980s or Segers, 35, formerly with Nottingham Forest and Wimbledon, is a first-choice player with his current club and even if the FA imposed smaller bans than a life term, their ages mean that their careers would be effectively ended.

Nevertheless Grobbelaar is almost certain to play for Oxford against Sheffield United at the Manor Ground tomorrow. The Zimbabwean international signed a month's contract earlier this week as cover for the injured Phil Whitehead and the Oxford secretary Mick Brown said yesterday's developments would not affect Grobbelaar's chances of appearing.

"We have spoken to the FA and there is no problem with him playing," he said. "Until the case is heard we don't know what the result is. He has just been charged, he has not been found guilty. And when he gets the hearing I expect it will be outside the month he is here anyway."

The decison to drop the match-fixing charge against Grobbelaar was inevitable after the verdict at Winchester and his solicitor, David Hewitt, laid the emphasis on that. "The FA's decision once and for all vindicates Bruce, who has consistently denied any involvement in match-fixing," he said.

"With regard to the fresh allegation of assisting in betting on football matches, I still await full details from the Football Association and will be discussing the matter with Bruce. I anticipate that we will request a personal hearing."

Segers' solicitor, Mel Goldberg, said his client was "very disappointed" by the FA's decision and would be seeking a personal hearing. "He feels that he has suffered enough over the last two-and-a-half years and has already cleared his name in a court of law."

Betting on the outcome of matches is against FA rules, although many players have admitted to laying wagers on themselves, most commonly to score the first goal in a particular match. Following the latest trial, senior figures at the FA have become concerned that these innocent bets could turn into the basis for match manipulation.

Sir John Smith's brief was also to consider what recommendations he had about the rules regarding betting and forecasting in football. He is expected to deliver his report early next month.

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