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EFL make do with fining Leeds £200,000
Tuesday, 19th Feb 2019 23:00 by Tim Whelan

Leeds have been spared the punishment we most feared, in the shape of a points deduction, but the size of the fine has still led to an outburst of rage from the long-suffering fans of Leeds United.

Leeds didn’t break any specific regulation of the Football League, nor was our spying against the laws of the land. We didn’t cause any damage (and contrary to Derby County’s initial claims, our employee didn’t have any wire cutters when he was apprehended) and the surveillance was always done from a public place.

But after 10 clubs wrote to the League demanding action, there was a period of head scratching and a spell of “we ought to charge Leeds with something, but we’re not quite sure what”. And after a desperate search through the rulebook lasting several days (we were expecting to hear the outcome of their deliberations on Thursday) all they could come up with was the vague catch-all clause of having to treat other clubs with respect.

Regulation 3.4 states that ‘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.’ Leeds have admitted this breach and accepted the fine of £200,000, which includes a contribution towards costs. We’ve also had a formal reprimand and warning that the Club’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected by the EFL and must not be repeated.

Our fondly remembered former employee, EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey, said “The regulatory requirement to act in ‘utmost good faith’ was brought into EFL Regulations two years ago and was bolstered in 2018 by the introduction of the Club Charter.” And he was keen to deny that his current employers were making it up as they went along.

“The facts of this particular case were not ones we would have expected - and have to deal with a complaint about, and it is clearly impossible to have a specific set of Regulations that will apply in all circumstances of poor conduct, so, this charge was brought under a general Regulation. In doing this, the EFL has demonstrated we have appropriate provisions in place to protect our competitions and apply to all Clubs.”

And to make sure that nobody does the same thing in future, a new rule is coming in that Clubs will be expressly prohibited from viewing opposition training in the 72 hours immediately prior to a fixture, unless invited to do so. A statement on the official Leeds United website said “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.”

And so ends an episode which always seemed rather bizarre even by the standards of our club’s recent history. The club’s reference to cultural differences in the statement was because spying is considered normal in Argentina, but Bielsa himself claimed it wasn’t really necessary to do it, and it was only down to his obsessive personality.

My initial reaction was one of relief, as we could have had a points deduction that could have ultimately cost us promotion, the financial impact of which would have been many times the £200k punishment we actually got. The EFL probably knew that if they’d gone down that road we’d have challenged it in the courts, whereas the penalty they actually imposed was one they were pretty sure we’d settle for.

But now the dust has settled the fine does look pretty excessive, given the smaller amounts that other clubs have been fined recently for offenses like racist chanting, pitch invasions and players diving to win penalties. Plenty of fans have taken to social media to complain that we only got that big a fine because we’re Leeds, but would another club have been treated more leniently for the same thing?

Leeds fan Jack Platt has set up an appeal on the Go Fund Me website to pay off the fine, and If the club don’t accept any money raised then the money will be split between three other causes. Namely the Toby Nye fund, LUFC Foundation and the appeal to send Amy Risdon to Germany for specialist cancer treatment. Please give generously.

Reuters Media Express

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