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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Goalie Was Paid to Lose, Reports Say

LONDON -- English soccer was rocked by scandal Wednesday as former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was accused of taking bribes from a gambling syndicate to fix matches.

The Football Association ordered an immediate investigation into the charges against the 37-year-old Zimbabwean, who now plays for Southampton.

Grobbelaar, who canceled a trip home to Zimbabwe, denied the allegations and consulted with lawyers.

The Sun newspaper alleged that the goalkeeper accepted ?40,000 ($64,800) from a Far East betting ring to throw a game last November between Liverpool and Newcastle. Liverpool lost the match 3-0. The betting ring was believed to have netted more than ?3 million from the result, the Sun said.

The newspaper claimed it had secretly filmed Grobbelaar admitting he threw the game.

The report alleged that Grobbelaar was offered an additional ?175,000 to let in goals in other league matches, including last Saturday's game between Southampton and Manchester City. That match ended in a 3-3 draw.

The Sun said it had a video recording of Grobbelaar accepting money in an envelope.

"Clearly these are disturbing reports and there needs to be a very urgent and thorough investigation," Football Association chief executive Graham Kelly said.

Southampton director Lawrie McMenemy said the club supported Grobbelaar and would not take any disciplinary action against him while the inquiry was being held.

"Obviously if the person is found guilty of this sort of thing we would be very concerned, but until there is any proof we stand by our man," he said.

Liverpool's chief executive Peter Robinson said the club had promised "full cooperation" with the FA probe.

Grobbelaar canceled a flight to Zimbabwe on Tuesday night when he was besieged by reporters at Gatwick airport. He was due to play for Zimbabwe against Zaire in an African Nations qualifying match Sunday.

"I never tried to throw a game in my life," Grobbelaar was reported as saying when he was approached by Sun reporters.

The player was quoted as saying the accusations would probably "destroy me, my career, my marriage and my existence here."

Referee Gerald Ashby, who was in charge of the Newcastle-Liverpool game, said he was "absolutely amazed" by the allegations.

"There was nothing in the game that raised any suspicions in my mind," he said. "I wasn't aware of anything that I would remotely consider as suspicious."

In Zimbabwe, Grobbelaar's teammates and coaches greeted the allegations with incredulity.

"I know Bruce will not do this kind of thing," said Rudi Gutendorf, coach of the Zimbabwe national team. "I know him as a great football sportsman. I can absolutely not believe it."

Zimbabwe captain Francis Shonayi was also incredulous. "Everybody trusts Bruce," he said. "He is just not that kind of guy to do that. He is simply a straightforward guy and not a cheat or something."

Grobbelaar has a reputation as one of the most colorful players in English soccer and is often referred to as a "clown prince."

Grobbelaar made his name with Liverpool, where he played in more than 400 games over 13 years and won league championships in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1988. He also shared in league cup triumphs over three consecutive years from 1982 to 1984, collected FA Cup medals in 1986 and 1989 and was a European Cup winner in 1984. He transferred to Southampton in August.

English soccer's biggest bribery scandal was in 1965 when 10 players were found guilty of rigging results. One player was jailed for four years, the others for terms between four and 15 months.