Leeds United have been finally sanctioned for the spygate incident. Bielsa did confess that he was sending his staff to spy on his opponents before games but this only came to light when a Leeds United staff member was caught spying on a Derby training session before the game on January 10th.
After much deliberation, Leeds United have been slapped with a hefty fine of £200,000. A similar situation with Crystal Palace in 2014 resulted in a fine of around £25,000. Though the incident wasn’t entirely similar to Leeds United’s the fine was considerably less. This begs the question as to why Leeds United’s fine was significantly more for a very similar incident.
It seems as though Leeds United are not in agreement with the EFL as to whether or not the fine is justified, but are instead almost forced to accept to avoid any harsher consequences which could follow if the matter goes to a panel. Furthermore, the incident has gone on for a much longer time than Leeds United had expected which may have an effect on the players and coaching staff, who fear of a points deduction.
Furthermore, there has been more controversy surrounding the way in which the EFL have handled the issue with their CEO going on TalkSport and giving insights into the Spygate incident despite the fact there was an ongoing investigation. This also links closely with the Bristol City owner calling publicly for a points deduction, despite one of his employee’s working on the EFL board, which faced no consequence.
Although, the fine was unnecessarily high for an incident which didn’t actually break any rules and compared to other incidents Leeds United could feel hard done by.
For example, Russia were only fined £22,000 when their fans racially abused the French players which would have directly impacted the French players performance on the pitch much more than the Spygate incident would’ve impacted the match between Leeds United and Derby, especially because the Leeds spy was caught before he could view the Derby training session. As a result, this begs the question of why were Leeds United fined astronomically more than Russia was (£178,000 more). Despite the fact that the incident was completely different and given by separate governing bodies, it still puts the significance of the fine into perspective considering no competitive advantage was gained, nor was it against any rules.
Another case of a team breaking actual rules of football is Liverpool who illegally signed a 12-year-old who was already registered with The Stoke Academy. This was deemed against the rule 299.1 which essentially state that a club can not directly or indirectly pay or benefit a player in any way to sign for them at Academy level. Liverpool was seen to purposefully go against the Premier League rules and were fined £100,000 which is £100,000 less than Leeds united’s fine, despite Leeds not formally going against any EFL rule because a rule to prohibit teams from viewing their opponents 72 hours before a game was only introduced after the Spygate incident. This again begs the question as the whether or not the Leeds United fine was necessary when much worse goes unpunished or much less punished than Leeds’ £200,000 fine.
This fine given to Leeds United is higher than some fines given to Championship clubs who have broken FFP regulations, which undoubtedly has a much bigger impact on a teams season than standing on a public footpath and watching an opposing teams training session through the bushes.