MILLWALL had their preparations spied on by Leeds United before the clubs' fixture last August – with Whites boss Marcelo Bielsa admitting his club has spied on every opponent this season.
Bielsa called a press conference on Wednesday evening to address what has become known as 'Spygate', after a person sent by Leeds spied on a Derby County training session before the sides' Championship meeting last Friday. Police were called to Derby's training ground and Rams boss Frank Lampard had to halt the session.
Leeds won the game 2-0 at Elland Road, and afterwards Lampard said: "If you talk about details and gaining advantages, great and good managers do that. But this one is over the line. It's not just a toe over the line, it's a hop, skip and a jump over the line." The EFL are currently investigating the incident.
Neil Harris' Lions were within minutes of defeating Leeds (above), before Jack Harrison's 89th-minute equaliser – after a confrontation involving Bielsa and both benches for which the Leeds boss later apologised – cancelled out Jed Wallace's 55th-minute strike.
In the press conference, Bielsa demonstrated on PowerPoint the level of detail involved in analysing each opponent, including over 200 hours spent on video analysis of Derby, and revealed the dossiers they have containing statistics such as how many minutes each player has spent in each position this season, the formations opponents struggle against, among reams of other data.
He said the three key pieces of information were the opponents' line-up, formation and set-piece strategy. Wallace's goal came after Jake Cooper flicked on a long throw-in from Ryan Leonard.
Bielsa read from a statement.
"Many managers and ex-footballers said my behaviour was not respectful," he said. "The league after a complaint by Derby County decided to open an investigation over my behaviour so they will evaluate if I behaved bad.
"One point I would like to talk about is that I am going to make it easy for the investigation of the league. I will give them what they need. I assume the fact that my behaviour is observed. I observed all the rivals and we watched all the training sessions of the opponents before we played against them.
"My goal is to make the investigation easier. I don't think this will make it worse, what they're looking for, than what I am saying right now. By doing that I assume the possible sanctions they will give me.
"Regarding what I have done, what I have done is not illegal. It's not specified [in the rules] and it's not restrained. We can discuss about it. It's not seen as a good thing but it is not a violation of the law. I know that not everything [that] is legal is right to do. Because you have many things that are legal but they're not right. All the wrong things that you do are not done with bad intentions.
"We have to respect the procedures. I regret the point that I am going to make now because I don't like to talk about me. In my job I am over-exposed and I don't like being in the media too much, but I think it is important to make this explanation.
"When you look at the opponent you are looking for specific information. You want to know the starting XI and the strategic set-up and their set-pieces. Those are three key things head coaches analyse. When you watch a training session from an opponent you get this information a day before a game. Obviously it's not information that can allow you to build a project to neutralise the opponent during a game.
"I'm not trying to justify my behaviour whatsoever. We cannot justify it, as Lampard said. He does not accept the explanation I gave.
"All the information I need to clarify the game against an opponent I gather it without having the necessity to watch the training session of the opponent. So why did I do it? It's just because I thought I wasn't violating a normal thing. I gather information that I can obtain in another manner. I would like to explain how the brain of a head coach works.
"Apart from the players in the staff you have around 20 people. These 20 people create a volume of information. It's absolutely not necessary. It doesn't define the path of the competition. So why do we do that? Because we feel guilty if we don't work enough. It allows us to not have anxiety."
Bielsa went on to say, "I don't need to go to watch a training session of an opponent to know how the opponent plays."
He added: "I want to be judged for my intentions. For me, I feel I'm not guilty. I don't have bad intentions."
Yorkshire Evening Post chief football writer Phil Hay was reporting from the press conference:
Image: Millwall FC