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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Players Deny Match-Fixing Charges

SOUTHAMPTON, England -- The reaction to match-fixing charges from the players involved and their clubs was swift and consistent: not guilty.


English Premier League players Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu and Hans Segers were charged with conspiracy Monday in connection with English soccer's biggest match-fixing scandal in 30 years.


"From the outset, Bruce has denied any involvement whatsoever in any criminal activity and he maintains that denial today as strongly as he ever has,'' Grobbelaar's solicitor David Hewitt said Monday night.


"These proceedings will be vigorously defended.''


Wimbledon goalkeeper Segers was equally adamant about his innocence.


"Although the police have charged me they have not proved anything and I am totally innocent," he said. "I just want all this to be dealt with as quickly as possible. In the meantime I will try my hardest in goal for Wimbledon."


Aston Villa striker Fashanu refused to comment, but his lawyer, Henri Brandman, told reporters, "He looks forward to clearing his name." The three players, along with Malaysian businessman Heng Suan Lim and Fashanu's girlfriend Melissa Kassampasi, were charged with receiving or paying money to influence the outcome of matches.


All five were released on bail and ordered to appear at Southampton magistrates' court Oct. 11.


The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and/or an unspecified fine.


The Football Association, English soccer's governing body, said it would put its own investigation on hold until criminal proceedings were completed.


The FA filed misconduct charges against Grobbelaar, a Zimbabwe international player, in November but has not taken any other action.


The FA said it would be up to the individual clubs to decide whether the players should continue to play. The Premier League season opens Aug. 19.


"We have maintained a consistent position,'' Southampton's secretary Brian Truscott said. "Until the relevant charges are admitted or proven we will continue to support Bruce."


Grobbelaar signed a two-year contract with Southampton in July 1994.


"For his part, Bruce looks forward to the start of next season and resuming his career with Southampton, hopefully in the first team,'' Hewitt said.


The charges represent the biggest scandal since 1965, when three top players, England defenders Peter Swan and Tony Kay and striker David Layne, all of Sheffield Wednesday, were jailed for taking money to fix results.


"As with everyone, they are innocent until proven guilty,'' players' union chief Gordon Taylor said. "But it's the shadow cast over football by the mere fact they have been charged. If they are found guilty, then it will greatly affect the whole game.''


In Zimbabwe, the country's football association chairman Leo Mugabe said: "Our stance is still the same. We stand by Grobbelaar. He remains innocent until the court finds him guilty."


Mugabe said Grobbelaar would arrive in Harare on Wednesday for his country's African Cup qualifier against Cameroon in Yaounde on Sunday.


"I hope he will be in the right state of mind to play after this," Mugabe said.


(AP, Reuters)