Former Leeds United goalkeeper David Seaman has defended the club over the Spygate controversy as Stuart Pearce called for the Football Association to reverse the result of Leeds’ 2-0 win over Derby County.
Seaman, the Arsenal legend who was born in Yorkshire and turned professional with Leeds, told TalkSPORT that his old club should face no punishment over Marcelo Bielsa’s admission that he sent a scout to spy on a Derby training session before Friday night’s clash between the clubs at Elland Road.
Leeds and Bielsa are under investigation by both the Football Association and the EFL after Derby complained about the appearance of a member of Bielsa’s staff outside their training complex on Thursday morning.
The incident led to police being called and Bielsa accepted responsibility for it, saying he sanctioned the trip and had used similar scouting methods in other jobs with club and international sides.
Leeds have since apologised to Derby and their owner, Mel Morris, but the FA began investigating last week and the EFL wrote to United yesterday to ask the club to provide an explanation for Bielsa’s behaviour.
Both governing bodies could bring disciplinary charges but asked if the club or Bielsa deserved any sanction, Seaman told TalkSPORT: “No, because this has gone on for a long time.
“We knew when we used to play away in Europe that you showed nothing in set-plays. You always got to train in the stadium the night before and you knew there would be people in the ground who would be looking.
“Even when we were at Arsenal, when we moved training grounds to the one next door to Watford’s (at London Colney) we had massive mounds built to cover the footpath. There were shrubs and trees and everything planted on top so nobody could see into our training ground.
“It’s been going on and you take caution. You make sure that you’re looked after and that people can’t see in.”
Parts of Derby’s training ground are visible from a public road and the staff member dispatched by Bielsa, who is believed to have been trying to establish if County winger Harry Wilson was fit to play in Friday’s match, was not arrested by Derbyshire police. He returned to Leeds without charge.
Former England defender Pearce, however, told Sky’s ‘The Debate’ programme that the outcome of Leeds’ victory over Derby should be overturned by the FA, and dismissed the claim that the use of similar tactics in other countries was a mitigating factor for Bielsa.
“I think if it’s not right or proper it’s not right and proper, from whatever country you come on,” Pearce said.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the punishment is by the FA. We’ve not seen anything as clear cut as this before. If it was me, the team it’s affected the most is Derby. I’d reverse the scoreline. Let the punishment fit the crime. That statement fits this brilliantly.
“If you’ve sent someone all the way down from Leeds to Derby to stand outside the training ground and when asked about it you say ‘yes he was sent down by me, he put his expenses sheet in and all that’ then I think ‘fine, no problem, you won 2-0 against Derby but it’s affected Derby. It’s not in the spirit of the game.”
County manager Frank Lampard saw his side outclassed at Elland Road and admitted afterwards that Leeds had dominated from “minute one to minute 90”.
Asked how much impact the incident had had on Leeds’ dominant display, Pearce said: “Probably none.”
The FA and EFL have given no indication of the penalty Leeds and Bielsa could face but a spying row involving Crystal Palace and Cardiff City in 2014 led to Palace receiving a fine from the Premier League.
The South London club were found guilty of obtaining Cardiff’s starting line-up prior to a top-flight game which Palace won 3-0. The Premier League found that Palace had breached rule B16 which required clubs to act with “the utmost good faith” to each other.