EFL hits Leeds United with £200k fine as 'Spygate' saga ends

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Leeds United have tonight been hit with a £200,000 fine by the EFL over the ‘Spygate’ dispute.

The punishment, which draws a line under the controversy, has been accepted by Leeds and will not be subject to any appeal.

The club have apologised, saying the saga was "judged culturally unacceptable in the English game", and agreed to support the introduction of a new EFL rule governing the privacy of training grounds.

The EFL was investigating Leeds and head coach Marcelo Bielsa after a member of Bielsa’s scouting team was spotted outside Derby County’s training complex the day before Derby lost 2-0 at Elland Road on January 11.

Derby made a formal complaint to the EFL and Bielsa subsequently admitted that he had dispatched scouts to watch every Championship club train this season.

That admission led 11 teams in the division to write to the EFL demanding a thorough investigation.

The governing body had the option of charging Leeds under regulation 3.4, which requires clubs to act in the “utmost good faith”, and asking an independent panel to pass judgement on the case.

A settlement has been announced this evening, however, following talks between United officials and the governing body. Leeds admitted to a breach of the rules.

An EFL statement said: “After finalising its investigations into the incident at Derby County’s training ground on Thursday, January 10, the EFL reached the conclusion that the conduct undertaken by Leeds United in observing opponents’ training sessions is a breach of regulation 3.4.

“Leeds United has fully cooperated with the EFL’s inquiries and following a comprehensive review of all the evidence provided, the club has now formally admitted a breach of regulation 3.4.

“As a consequence, the club has been fined £200,000 (inclusive of a contribution to costs) and received a formal reprimand and warning to the effect that the club’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected by the EFL and must not be repeated.

“In addition, Leeds United has agreed to support a new EFL regulation that makes it clear that clubs will be expressly prohibited from viewing opposition training in the 72 hours immediately prior to a fixture, unless invited to do so.

“The EFL has informed all the Championship clubs who sought additional clarification regarding the conduct of Leeds United of the findings that relate to their club.”

United argued strongly against any punishment in written submissions sent to the EFL two weeks ago but have agreed to take a six-figure fine in return for closure.

The club said sorry to Derby publicly when the controversy first broke and apologised again tonight, saying: “We accept that whilst we have not broken any specific rule, we have fallen short of the standard expected by the EFL with regards to regulation 3.4.

“We apologise for acting in a way that has been judged culturally unacceptable in the English game and would like to thank Shaun Harvey and the EFL for the manner in which they conducted their investigations. Our focus can now return to matters on the field.”

The Football Association was also looking into ‘Spygate’ but is not expected to bring further action.

Bielsa’s habit of observing opposition training sessions has no precise precedent in England and is not specifically covered by EFL rules.

Crystal Palace received a £25,000 fine from the Premier League in 2014 following allegations that Cardiff City’s team sheet was leaked to them ahead of a match between the sides.

United, whose staff are believed to have successfully watched around half of the clubs in the Championship train, have been fined almost 10 times as much.