There's a Telegraph piece too:
The “spygate” episode between Leeds United and Derby County that has provoked such frenzied debate will doubtless have raised one or two wry smiles at Manchester City.
For years at their old Carrington training ground before the move to the maximum-security, £200 million City Football Academy in 2014, City’s nemesis was a public footpath from which just about anyone could enjoy a reasonable view of first-team training sessions.
Some budding City bloggers would take the opportunity to provide daily fitness updates among other revealing bulletins, although, in truth, tactics being divulged became much less of a problem than images of fights and fisticuffs, usually involving Mario Balotelli it must be said, being plastered all over the back pages of newspapers.
City lobbied the local council to help, only to be met with a shrug of the shoulders and laborious lectures about public rights of way. In their desperation, they ended up erecting several large white screens but the photographers started bringing stepladders and were invariably rewarded for their ingenuity with more juicy shots as the club’s power brokers banged collective heads in frustration.
No laws were broken. Private property was not trespassed on. The problem was not prying eyes but a lack of privacy at Carrington, and, ultimately, is that not also pretty much the issue at Derby’s Moor Farm training ground?
Leeds have apologised to their Championship counterparts and said that they will be having a quiet word with their manager, Marcelo Bielsa, about his decision to send a scout to spy on Derby’s training at Moor Farm last Thursday, 24 hours before the clubs played each other at Elland Road.
But what, honestly, has he done wrong?
For all the righteous anger of Derby’s manager, Frank Lampard, would the club not be better channelling their efforts into rethinking security around the perimeter fence where Bielsa’s subordinate was standing, given that the trees and bushes that run along Morley Road obviously offer inadequate protection from unwanted observers?
The spy apparently came equipped with pliers, but, contrary to reports, Derbyshire Police confirmed there was no damage to the fence. There was nothing illegal here, no arrest was made. The Football Association is investigating, but what could it possibly charge Bielsa with – using his initiative and imagination?
Ah, but a line was crossed, it broke the code of sporting etiquette, say English football’s morality police.
Well, this is where we really do venture into uncomfortable territory and the realms of hypocrisy. Lampard, for one, might want to choose his words carefully. He suggested after Derby’s 2-0 defeat by Leeds that Bielsa’s actions were tantamount to “cheating” and was very clear in his own mind that they were “wrong” and it was not the way to go about trying to gain “a sporting advantage”.
In light of that, it would be particularly interesting to know if Lampard ever challenged Andre Villas Boas when they were at Chelsea together over the “incognito” spying missions to opposition training grounds that the Portuguese has admitted to being sent on as a member of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff at Stamford Bridge. Or when Lampard talks about “sporting advantage”, did he raise the alarm and scream “immorality” when Mourinho flouted a Uefa stadium ban when the manager was smuggled in and out of Chelsea’s dressing room in a laundry basket during a Champions League tie against Bayern Munich in April 2005? Lampard scored twice that day in a 4-2 win.
Integrity in sport is important, and it stands to reason that if you give people an inch, they will often end up taking a mile, but it is necessary to establish what constitutes cheating and what is fair game and, equally, to strive for a little perspective.
In a week when the crisis at Bolton Wanderers deepened, Blackpool continue to be put through the ringer and some damning accusations were levelled at the FA by former Leeds employee, Lucy Ward, about the sexual discrimination case she won against her former club in 2016, perhaps the moral outrage that has greeted “spygate” would be better directed elsewhere.