Leeds United have escaped a points penalty in their quest to be promoted to the Premier League after it was announced Monday they had been fined £200,000 ($259,000, 229,000 euros) and reprimanded for spying on their opponents.
Leeds faced an investigation by the English Football League after veteran manager Marcelo Bielsa admitted sending someone to spy on Derby at their training ground ahead of a match last month.
The club formally admitted a breach of 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.”
Many were uncertain, however, whether Bielsa had committed a specific offence and the EFL now plan to clarify the situation by introducing a new rule that bans teams from viewing opposition training in the 72 hours immediately before a match, unless invited to do so.
EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey, announcing the punishments against Leeds, said Monday: “The sanctions imposed highlight how actions such as this cannot be condoned and act as a clear deterrent should any club seek to undertake poor conduct in the future.
“We will now look to move on from this incident and commence the discussions about introducing a specific regulation at a meeting with all clubs later this month.”
England’s governing Football Association added it had issued “formal warnings” against Leeds, Bielsa and an unnamed club video analyst.
Leeds responded to the EFL and FA sanctions by 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.”
Bielsa had previously insisted his behaviour was normal practice in his native Argentina.
But Derby manager Frank Lampard was unimpressed by the former Argentina manager’s explanation.
“He (Lampard) believes I violated the fair play spirit,” Bielsa said during a press conference last month. “I have to adapt to the rules linked to the habits of English football.”
Leeds, in action against Bolton on Saturday, are currently third in the Championship.
They are also level on points with second-placed Sheffield United and two adrift of leaders Norwich, but Leeds have a game in hand on their promotion rivals.
Only the top two sides at the end of the regular season are guaranteed a place in the Premier League, with the other promotion spot decided by a series of play-off matches.
Leeds, one of England’s leading clubs in the 1970s, are looking to return to the top flight for the first time since 2004.