Should Leeds be charged for spygate?

Should Leeds be charged for spygate?

Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa have claimed more headlines than most in the last week following spy-gate.

Bielsa and his coaching staff were caught spying on Derby County’s training session in the lead up to their Championship clash last Friday.

Leeds went on to win the game comfortably, adding even more fuel to the fire, especially as far as Derby are concerned.

Bielsa and Leeds have apologised for their mis-step, however, they remain under investigation and the wait is on to find out how severely they are punished.

Could it be a points deduction? Could they receive a fine? Here’s what’s happened and the likely punishment Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa will face.

The background

If you’ve missed the story so far, here’s what happened.

Leeds United played Derby County last Friday night and in the build-up to the game, there was uproar.

Derby County were training ahead of the game, running through their final preparations when they halted training after spotting someone suspicious lingering near the area where they were training.

Police then stepped in to question the suspicious individual who turned out to be an employee of Leeds United, and someone who works as part of their football operations, I,e coaching or scouting.

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa was then asked about this, and he didn’t shy away, admitting straight up that he sent someone to watch Derby’s training session in a bid to gain that extra edge. Leeds would go on to comfortably win the match.

He says it’s common practice in other countries and Leeds United later apologised to Derby County over the incident. The statement read: “Following comments made by Marcelo Bielsa yesterday the club will look to work with our head coach and his staff to remind them of the integrity and honesty which are the foundations that Leeds United is built on.

"Our owner Andrea Radrizzani has met with Derby County's owner Mel Morris to formally apologise for Marcelo's actions. We will make no further comment on this matter."

This all ended with Marcelo Bielsa giving a lengthy presentation to the media during his press conference on Wednesday. He decided to show the media all of the scouting work he does on each team Leeds play with extensive materials included in his Powerpoint presentation.

Leeds United

What’s wrong with spying?

This isn’t something the rulebook necessarily covers, but it’s an ethical issue, rather than a legal one. There were days when teams trained in the open, just cast your mind back to Leeds in the Don Revie days – pretty much anyone could spot their training pitch.

However, training very much differs now with intense tactical preparation and that’s seen teams move further into their highly-protected premises.

Members of the public aren’t allowed to watch training unless the club’s state otherwise, and the pitches are often surrounded by large fences and bushes to obscure view from the public, that’s if you can even get on to the often-private property.

So, it takes some effort to spy on a training session, and you have to question why in the first place.Marcelo Bielsa is obsessive, he studies everything down to the final detail, so then why does he have to go and spy on a private training session. That’s not an extra edge he is entitled to.

It shows a lack of integrity. It’s information you’re not entitled to. There has to be privacy in the game, without it, we lose a level of competition.

With increased coverage of games, teams already have unprecedented access to other teams, we certainly don’t need to take another step by giving other clubs access to training sessions.

Leeds United

Should Bielsa be punished?

Yes. This is something Bielsa has likely done all year. This occasion is just when he has been caught.Leeds aren’t top of the league solely because of that, Bielsa is a very good coach and he has a good squad at his disposal, too.

However, Leeds have gained an advantage all season by spying and it’s one other teams haven’t had. That’s cheating, and it means other clubs are playing at a disadvantage to Leeds.

That can’t be allowed to happen.The issue in this case, is that there is no set punishment, because it’s not included in the rulebook.

That limits the EFL and FA in what they can do to punish Leeds, unless it’s decided that the rulebook be modified to cater for this sort of activity. On the basis that Leeds have cheated and gained an advantage, a points deduction would meet seriousness of the crime so-to-speak, however that’s not going to happen.

You can’t create such a serious punishment out of nothing when you haven’t punished anyone else in the same way.

The likelihood is, that Bielsa and Leeds will both receive a hefty fine, something they’ll be rather pleased with, while other clubs, including Derby, will be left furious.

The most important thing here is that the EFL and FA ensure there is a more serious punishment for any future instances from Leeds or other clubs. This can’t be allowed to happen again.

Marcelo Bielsa Leeds

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