Bruce Grobbelaar hits out at ‘confusing’ UK Covid travel rules after conviction

·3-min read
Bruce Grobbelaar (PA)
Bruce Grobbelaar (PA)

Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar has hit out at “confusion” caused by the UK’s Covid travel rules after he was fined £1,100 for falling foul of the pandemic restrictions.

The former Reds goalkeeper, 64, was among thousands of people stopped and questioned by Border agents when a string of pandemic rules and restrictions were in place.

Grobbelaar was caught out in March last year, when he landed at Manchester Airport from Amsterdam without pre-arranged ‘Day Two’ and ‘Day Eight’ Covid PCR tests to comply with the government’s restrictions.

Making an accusation of “skulduggery” and branding his treatment a “joke”, Grobbelaar told the Evening Standard he had been out of the UK when the rules changed and he was oblivious to the new obligations he faced.

“How could I have a test when I didn’t know about it?”, he said. “I was away in Norway while they made the rules – I was unaware I had to have it when I flew back in.

“They just changed the boundaries to suit themselves, to cause confusion.”

The ex-footballer was stopped and challenged at 11am on March 19, telling an official he had been “travelling to and from Norway” and “did not know about this”.

MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised the government on Tuesday for the myriad of constantly changing travel rules during the pandemic, including a ‘traffic light’ risk system for countries, forced quarantining, and data submitted on Passenger Locator Forms.

“Government’s failure to communicate the reasons for frequent changes to health measures made it hard for the public to understand and adhere to them”, the MPs concluded.

Bruce Grobbelaar during his playing days (PA)
Bruce Grobbelaar during his playing days (PA)

“While some complexity was inevitable, we consider that frequent changes to the rules every three weeks threatened to undermine compliance.”

Grobbelaar said he was helped by an official at the airport to book and pay for a Day Two test - which came back negative - but then she “turned around and said you might still be prosecuted”.

“I thought it was a joke”, he said. “The immigration officer actually helped me get the test, I never knew we had to get the test before I flew, I was in Norway and they made the rule while I was away.

“I was quite shocked – I found it quite bizarre.”

Zimbabwe international Grobbelaar, a European champion and six-time league winner with Liverpool, was issued with a £1,000 Fixed Penalty Notice by the Home Office for the breach, but did not pay it. Greater Manchester Police then brought a criminal prosecution through the Single Justice Procedure in April this year .

Grobbelaar’s has moved home since the airport stop and court papers were addressed to his old address, and he said he may now consider appealing his conviction or applying to reopen his case.

“I never knew I got prosecuted”, he added.

Grobbelaar was fined £1,100 by the court and ordered to pay £200 in court costs and fees in a behind closed doors hearing in April.

Prosecutions of other people who fell foul of the rules continue to take place quietly, including against yacht captain Stephen Quaid, 46, who also did not have the required PCR tests when he took a RyanAir flight from Barcelona to Stanstead in June last year.

Quaid brought a negative test result with him, and - since he was due to be in the UK for less than 24 hours to buy boat parts - believed he had a “seafarers exemption”. However he was convicted and told to pay a £220 fine plus £124 in costs and fees.

Rio Fin Drew Reeve, 19, did not have a ‘Day Eight’ test when he landed in Bristol from Alicante on April 11 last year, as he only had enough money for one PCR test and “was not aware it was necessary”, Tameside magistrates court was told. The Cornwall resident was also fined £220.

Zulma Johanna Forero, 39, from Tulse Hill in southwest London, was fined £1760 for not having pre-arranged PCR tests when she landed in Luton from Lanzarote last March.