Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United are embroiled in a Spygate scandal: Here's everything you need to know
The Argentine boss admitted to spying on all of his opponents
Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa has his team in first place as we approach the final third of the EFL Championship season, and ultimately in the driver seat for a promotion to the Premier League. However, his campaign has took a weird and controversial turn after he admitted to spying all of his opponents before he plays them. Move over, New England Patriots, English soccer has its own Spygate scandal and we're here to dish out everything you need to know and what to expect from Bielsa and Leeds moving forward.
How did he get caught spying other teams?
Leeds, under the direction of Bielsa, sent an employee to spy on Derby County at their training ground ahead of their league game last week, and police were called because of "suspicious activity." It resulted in the training session being stopped. Bielsa did this to obviously undermine Derby's gameplan for the showdown with Leeds, looking to get a competitive advantage against the team coached by Frank Lampard.
Bielsa held a press conference that wasn't originally planned on Wednesday, with some speculation that he would be handing his resignation papers over and stepping down in wake of the scandal. Bielsa, nicknamed "Loco" for his unorthodox coaching strategies, instead doubled down and admitted that he spies on every opponent.
Here's more from the Associated Press:
In a PowerPoint presentation at Leeds' training ground, Bielsa showed journalists his detailed reports and analysis on each of his team's opponents this season, including information on tactics, formations and specific players.
He used as an example the research he did before the Derby game, showing which Derby players had been used in which positions and the formations Derby had struggled against.
How is this comparable to, say, the Patriots-Spygate scandal?
During the 2007 NFL season, the New England Patriots were disciplined by the league for having someone videotape the defensive coaches' signals of the New York Jets. The league deemed it to be in violation of league rules and fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000. The team was also fined $250,000 and forced to forfeit its first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
The Leeds incident is different in the sense that it isn't specifically against the rules, but it's similar in the sense of being looked at as unprofessional and unethical.
Is he being investigated?
Yes. The English Football League announced it has launched an investigation. Bielsa said on Wednesday that he was admitting to spying on every opponent to help the league with its investigation, but it's hard to see how that will benefit him at all.
The EFL has now determined that it is appropriate to consider this matter in the context of a number of EFL Regulations whilst also noting that the alleged actions appear to contravene the Club Charter that all EFL Clubs agreed to in summer 2018.
The decision to progress this matter to a formal investigation comes as a result of the Club's manager, Marcelo Bielsa, admitting to instructing an individual to undertake the acts being complained of in a television interview broadcast on Sky Sports on Friday 11 January 2019.
Bielsa, in fact, is open to cooperating with those investigating his actions.
What did he say when confronted?
Bielsa openly admitted to sending a team member to spy, and Leeds actually went on to beat Derby 2-0. He took full responsibility for it, but adding that in his mind he did nothing wrong. Bielsa said that he has used the tactic in the past, especially when coaching the Argentina national team, a post he had from 1998 to 2004.
"It's true, there was somebody from Leeds United. The responsible person is me," Bielsa said before the game.
Here's the full interview:
Did he ever apologize?
He said he spoke to Lampard and the former Chelsea star helped him understand that he didn't comply with Fair Play rules and expressed remorse.
"I have a different point of view on it, but what's important is what Lampard and Derby County think," Bielsa said.
Is this illegal?
From a rules standpoint, not specifically, but the league sees it as falling under certain regulations such as Regulation 3.4 which 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 …"
From an ethical standpoint, he's definitely not going to get any praise from anyone in England for spying on other teams. Though the tactic may be common in some places, it's important to realize where he works now. Considering you are spying on an opponent and also going behind the club's back in doing so is just not a good look.
"It doesn't matter if I think if it is legal or illegal, right or wrong," Bielsa said. "For me, it's enough that Lampard and Derby County were bothered by this, thinking I did not behave correctly."
So, what's next?
There was some speculation that the press conference held Wednesday would be to announce Bielsa's resignation. In what is being seen as a baffling turn of events, Bielsa did not resign -- instead he explained what his preparation for opponents is like, trying to perhaps justify his actions in the process. So, business as usual for "Loco," pending the investigation from the EFL. It's unclear what type of punishment could potentially take place, but it's fair to consider anything at this moment from a fine to suspension or deduction of points, though the league hasn't commented.
The club doesn't seem too worried though, and it's even poking fun of the situation online. The official Twitter account responded to one such claim that he would be stepping down with this:
Leeds is currently in first place in the Championship with 54 points and a record of 16-5-5, four points clear of third place. If the team finishes in the top two, it will earn automatic promotion to the Premier League. If it finishes anywhere from third to sixth, it will play in the promotion playoffs.
Leeds is one of the most recognizable names in English soccer over the last 30 years but had fallen on hard times. It spent most of its days in the Premier League or first division, including from 1990 to 2004, making the Champions League semifinals in 2001. The club has won the top flight three times and the FA Cup once.
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