No points punishment as Leeds United are hit with fine by EFL for ‘spygate’ affair

Marcelo Bielsa.
Marcelo Bielsa.

The spygate affair appears to be over after the Football League have announced that they have come up with a punishment of a £200,000 fine for Leeds United.

Fans have expressed relief that there is to be no points punishment after the Elland Road club admitted that so-called spying on teams in training had gone on this season.

The financial punishment has been accepted by Leeds and there will not be an appeal.

United have also accepted that the matter under investigation had been “judged culturally unacceptable in the English game” and agreed to support the introduction of a new EFL rule governing the privacy of training grounds.

The EFL was investigating Leeds and head coach Marcelo Bielsa after a member of Bielsa’s scouting team was spotted outside Derby County’s training complex the day before Derby’s Sky Bet Championship game at Elland Road on January 11.

Derby made a formal complaint to the EFL and Bielsa subsequently admitted that he had sent scouts to watch every Championship club train this season.

That admission led 11 teams in the division to write to the EFL demanding a thorough investigation.

The governing body had the option of charging Leeds under regulation 3.4, which requires clubs to act in the “utmost good faith”, and asking an independent panel to pass judgement on the case. A settlement has been announced, however, following talks between United officials and the EFL.

An EFL statement said: “After finalising its investigations into the incident at Derby County’s training ground on Thursday, January 10, the EFL reached the conclusion that the conduct undertaken by Leeds United in observing opponents’ training sessions is a breach of regulation 3.4.

“Leeds United has fully cooperated with the EFL’s inquiries and following a comprehensive review of all the evidence provided, the club has now formally admitted a breach of regulation 3.4.

“As a consequence, the club has been fined £200,000 (inclusive of a contribution to costs) and received a formal reprimand and warning to the effect that the club’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected by the EFL and must not be repeated.

“In addition, Leeds United has agreed to support a new EFL regulation that makes it clear that clubs will be expressly prohibited from viewing opposition training in the 72 hours immediately prior to a fixture, unless invited to do so.

“The EFL has informed all the Championship clubs who sought additional clarification regarding the conduct of Leeds United of the findings that relate to their club.”

A United spokesman said: “We accept that whilst we have not broken any specific rule, we have fallen short of the standard expected by the EFL with regards to regulation 3.4.

“We apologise for acting in a way that has been judged culturally unacceptable in the English game and would like to thank Shaun Harvey and the EFL for the manner in which they conducted their investigations.

“Our focus can now return to matters on the field.”