The EFL has joined the Football Association in launching an investigation into the ‘Spygate’ controversy involving Leeds United and Derby County.
Officials at the EFL have written to Leeds asking the club to provide their observations after head coach Marcelo Bielsa admitted dispatching a scout to Derby’s training ground 24 hours before Friday’s Championship game between the club.
The United staff member, who is understood to have been attempting to establish whether Derby winger Harry Wilson was fit to play, was stopped by police outside the complex on Thursday morning following reports of a man acting suspiciously.
The incident led to no arrest but Derby’s anger over it led Bielsa to phone County manager Frank Lampard and accept responsibility for the staff member’s appearance.
Bielsa spoke publicly before and after Friday’s 2-0 win over Derby, insisting the practice was common place in other countries he had been employed as a coach. He declined to apologise to Lampard but said he would look to “respect the norms that are applied in the country I work in.”
“If you watch a training session from a public space, it's not illegal and you don't get condemned by the police,” Bielsa said. “I don't feel like I’m someone who cheated.”
Leeds, however, made a public apology to Derby on Saturday morning after chairman Andrea Radrizzani said sorry in face-to-face discussions with County owner Mel Morris.
The FA announced prior to Friday’s match at Elland Road that it was investigating the saga and the EFL said this afternoon that it had begun a probe of its own on the back of a complaint by Derby and Bielsa’s comments.
The EFL warned of punishment to come by saying the “alleged actions appear to contravene the club’s charter that all EFL clubs agreed to in summer 2018.”
A statement read: “The EFL has today written to Leeds United requesting their observations in regard to an incident that took place in the vicinity of Derby County’s training ground on Thursday, January 10.
“It follows a complaint from Derby County who allege that an individual, acting under the instruction of Leeds United, sought to observe a private training session the day before the two clubs were due to meet in the Sky Bet Championship.
“The EFL has now determined that it is appropriate to consider this matter in the context of a number of EFL regulations whilst also noting that the alleged actions appear to contravene the club’s charter that all EFL clubs agreed to in summer 2018.
“The decision to progress this matter to a formal investigation comes as a result of the club’s manager, Marcelo Bielsa, admitting to instructing an individual to undertake the acts being complained of in a television interview broadcast on Sky Sports on Friday, January 11.
“The Football Association has also confirmed they are considering the same matter in line with its own rules and the EFL will work with its FA counterparts to ensure that any potential action taken does not prejudice those investigations being undertaken.”
EFL regulation 3.4 states that “each club shall behave towards each other club and the League with the utmost good faith.” Regulation 21 provides scope for the governing body to charge Bielsa, Leeds or both with bringing the game into disrepute.
Neither the EFL nor the FA have commented on what level of punishment is open to them if investigations lead to formal sanctions.
Lampard admitted that he did not think Leeds had breached a specific rule, saying: “I don’t know what the rules are. I believe there’s not an absolute clear-cut rule about it but we can’t open the door to this thing happening every week.
“What kind of farce would that be, of everyone sending undercover people, drones, whatever, into training? It would be farcical.”