Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

Bristol City owner wants Leeds to lose points for spying

Lansdown calls for punishment over Bielsa behaviour.

Bristol City owner Steve Lansdown wants a points deduction for Leeds after their head coach Marcelo Bielsa admitted to spying on other Sky  Bet Championship teams.

A member of Leeds’ staff was caught at Derby’s training ground last week watching them train ahead of their league game at Elland Road, which Bielsa’s side won 2-0.

The English Football League and Football Association are investigating the matter.

While Leeds do not appear to have actually broken any rules, Lansdown has called for the authorities to punish the West Yorkshire club, who are top of the Championship table by four points.

“The only thing that makes sense if I’m honest is a points deduction,” Lansdown told BBC Points West.

“They ought to seriously consider it but I don’t think that will happen as I don’t think the EFL will be strong enough to do something like that.

“A fine would go some way towards showing it’s not acceptable. Whatever happens we mustn’t condone it.

“If he’d asked to send someone to watch our training we would have said no. And every other football club would say no. So why does he think it’s acceptable to do it?

“However great a coach he is, it’s the wrong thing to do. Poking around and skulking around a training ground is not part of the game.”

bpanews_1164940a-17da-4e53-87dc-4d3851d91fba_embedded29283247
Leeds beat Steve Lansdown’s Bristol City 2-0 at Elland Road in November – the return game at Ashton Gate takes place on March 9.

Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and his Tottenham counterpart Mauricio Pochettino believe it is vital managers are allowed to make their final match preparations in privacy.

Pochettino found it difficult to condemn friend and former manager Bielsa but insisted his actions had been “wrong” in a country where such behaviour is still frowned upon.

Klopp agreed training sessions immediately before a match should be off-limits to opposition scouts, but Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the practice was commonplace in continental Europe and did not deny he had been involved in similar behaviour to his mentor Bielsa while coaching abroad.

bpanews_1164940a-17da-4e53-87dc-4d3851d91fba_embedded240663529
Bielsa gave a PowerPoint presentation to the media during a press conference on Wednesday (Mark Walker/PA)

Bielsa admitted on Wednesday to having every one of their Championship opponents watched in training, having confessed the week before that he had instructed a member of his staff staff to go to Derby’s training ground on January 10 to keep tabs on the Rams, who Leeds were playing the following evening.

The Argentinian called a hastily-arranged media briefing to present his analysis to journalists – but the act of spying on another team has split opinion.

“It’s a situation that makes me a little bit sad,” Pochettino said.

bpanews_1164940a-17da-4e53-87dc-4d3851d91fba_embedded240578495
Leeds boss Bielsa has split the football world with his approach to researching his opposition (Joe Giddens/PA)

“It’s so important to split my special personal relationship with him and describe a situation that happened a week ago.

“Always my love is going to be with him. He was a person so important to me, to build my career as a player. After we’re talking about a situation that happened last week and I can’t agree (with it).

“For me, it’s wrong. I can understand (Derby manager) Frank Lampard’s feelings. It’s a thing that’s not easy to explain.

bpanews_1164940a-17da-4e53-87dc-4d3851d91fba_embedded239910459
Pochettino (right) believes training in England should be kept private (John Walton/PA)

Klopp was also of the belief that the final training sessions before a game should be sacrosanct.

The first-team training pitch at the centre of Liverpool’s Melwood training base is fitted with a retractable curtain and Klopp explained the reasons behind it.

“What do you think the reason for the curtains is?! It’s not there in all sessions, because most of the sessions it is not a problem,” he said when asked about the row.

“But the last two sessions especially, we use the curtains because it’s not for anybody else. You change a lot of things, you train on the set-pieces, you use the players who are available for the weekend. These are in the information everyone wants to have.

“I understand Bielsa wants all the information, that’s what we all want, but on the other hand you have to accept that we don’t get that.

“That’s my opinion. You don’t want to have somebody around in these special sessions, and whatever you prepare over the years has no bearing on the last two sessions…especially the last one before a game, only a couple of people should see. I really think we all agree on that.”

Guardiola, meanwhile, skirted around the question as to whether he had employed similar tactics before moving to England.

“In other countries everybody does that,” he said.

“I don’t know. It is more difficult. (Training) is private. It is closed. But in all the countries I have been before, everybody does it.

“My respect (for Bielsa) remains the same. He was clear in his statement. I admired what he did in the past, why should I change my opinion?”

bpanews_1164940a-17da-4e53-87dc-4d3851d91fba_embedded240626600
Guardiola refused to deny he had employed similar tactics while working overseas. (Martin Rickett/PA)

Asked directly if he has ever sent anyone to spy on an opposition team, Guardiola replied: “In other countries everybody does it. It is the culture of the clubs. It was part of the club. Not because you said ‘you have to do it’. It is the (different) leagues.”

Crystal Palace’s former England boss Roy Hodgson called on the authorities to act – the Football Association and EFL have launched investigations.

He said: “Sneaking into other training grounds to see what teams are doing and get an advantage like that I do not understand at all, and I expect the governing bodies to do something about it.”

Press Association

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph