Since news broke of a potential Leeds United employee watching on at Derby County’s training ground ahead of tonight’s Championship clash, there has been plenty of column inches devoted to the wide range of thoughts that span from such ‘spying’.
A – Is it wrong?
B – Legal or illegal?
C – Against the rulebook?
D – Or simply a moral standpoint where you have to side with ‘naughty, don’t do that again’.
Manager Marcelo Bielsa’s admittance that it was normal practice for him as quoted by Sky Sports shows he’s firmly in camp A even if he acknowledges Frank Lampard is in camp D.
“It’s true it was someone from Leeds United. I am responsible for it. It doesn’t matter if this is legal or illegal, or right or wrong…for me, it is enough that Frank Lampard and Derby felt it was not the right thing to do, for me to believe that I didn’t behave well. Yesterday I talked to Frank Lampard and he said I didn’t respect the rules of fair play. I have a different point of view on it, but the important thing is what Frank Lampard and Derby think.”
Bielsa admitted it was on his instruction and he didn’t seek permission of Leeds to do it and added.
“Without trying to find a justification, I have been using this kind of practice since the qualifiers for the World Cup with Argentina. It is not illegal, we have been doing it publicly and we talk about it in the press. For some people, it’s the wrong thing to do and for other people, it’s not the wrong thing to do.”
Paragraph 3.2 of Section 2 of the Membership book for the EFL is relevant, but even that only states.
“In all matters and transactions relating to The League each Club shall behave towards each other Club and The League with the utmost good faith.”
It couldn’t be more wide or open to interpretation.
Yes, it feels wrong and against the spirit of the game, but it’s not technically against the rules. I would also say plenty of clubs historically and currently also take scouting to this level where it’s possible to do so.
Bielsa was seeking an advantage to win, we had a lad relying on his own talents at a fence watching on. He didn’t damage the fence to gain access or climb a tree and he was on public ground. He wasn’t using recording equipment or a drone, it was, from what I can tell, a natural line of sight that he took advantage of.
From the admittance and Lampard’s words (bushes aside as a reference to it happening before) there was actually nothing underhand about the effort to watch on – maybe Derby should invest in some proper fences to block the line of sight, and in the effort to get around such defences, that would clearly be against the ‘utmost good faith’ element in an espionage sense.
With that said, it still feels wrong doesn’t it.