The English Court of Appeal on Thursday overturned a R987 700 libel award made to former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, now coach of Pretoria-based Supersport United, over newspaper allegations accusing him of match-fixing.
A panel of judges sitting at the appeal court in London ruled in favour of an appeal brought by The Sun newspaper. The ruling means Grobbelaar stands to lose the original R987 700 and also faces the prospect of a legal bill estimated to be well in excess of R17-million. Costs awarded against The Sun after the libel verdict last year were put at R10,45-million. Appeal costs will add several million to that.
Grobbelaar, a former Zimbabwe goalkeeper, won the libel damages after a high court jury held that a series of articles in 1994 accusing him of match-fixing was libellous. But in December last year The Sun appealed, with its lawyer Richard Spearman accusing Grobbelaar of lying over taped interviews that he said backed the paper’s claims.
“The defendants say that sadly the badges of dishonesty and corruption belong to Bruce Grobbelaar because he is condemned out of his own mouth on the admissions made on the tapes,” Spearman told the appeal court.
Grobbelaar (43) brought his libel action against The Sun after he was acquitted of conspiracy to fix football matches in a criminal trial. The goalkeeper, along with former Wimbledon players Hans Segers and John Fashanu and businessman Richard Lim, was cleared in a 1997 retrial after the first court action ended in deadlock.
South African-born Grobbelaar won a string of honours with Liverpool, including the league championship, FA Cup and European Cup in the 1980s and early 1990s before going on to play for Southampton.