6 Times English Clubs Went Above and Beyond (the Rules) to Gain an Advantage Off the Pitch

This beautiful game has been blessed with the mesmeric talents of players such as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But with the light must come the dark, and it’s also had its fair share of scandals to accompany it.

Whether it be tampering or spying, it’s fair to say there have been a fair few immoral measures taken by clubs and individuals alike. 

And following this weekend’s news that Liverpool paid £1m in a settlement with Manchester City after being accused of breaking into their scouting network, this feels like just the right time to delve into some of the more bizarre cases in the English game.

Leeds United (2019)

Ah, Spygate!

In January 2019, Marcelo Bielsa sent a member of his staff to Derby County’s training ground ahead of an upcoming clash between the two in the Championship.

Bielsa has a bit of a history for this sort of thing and the Argentine confirmed that he did indeed send a member to go and watch their next opponents. As a result of his wrongdoing, Leeds United were hit with a £200,000 fine.

Yikes, Marcelo. 

Oh, and the then Derby manager Frank Lampard didn’t take to this very well…

England vs USA (2019)

Phil Neville

The Women’s World Cup saw England in with a chance of going all the way. This, of course, didn’t happen – with the Lionesses eventually being knocked out by the United States in the semi-finals. 

However, there was bags of drama in the build up to the match – notably when two members of the USA staffing team were spotted walking through a private area of England’s hotel. The team immediately denied any spying or wrongdoing, but the controversy was there nonetheless. 

The following day, a man was spotted in the bushes above England’s training facilities. Security chased him but appeared unable to get to him. 

Coincidence? We’ll leave it up to you on that one.  

Liverpool (2013)


Liverpool and ​Manchester City have formed a fierce rivalry with one another over the past few seasons, with the two battling it out for the major honours. 

The pair are set to face off against each other in the Premier League on 10th November and it appears as though there will be another layer of tension and rivalry for the upcoming contest, following the recent news.

The scandal involved three former Manchester City employees who went on to join Liverpool’s scouting network, including the club’s current sporting director Michael Edwards. It was believed that the Reds accessed their rivals’ Scout7 database on ‘hundreds of occasions’ – with ​Liverpool ending up paying £1m in settlement.

You can check out the full story here. 

Chelsea (2005)

…Well if Lampard wasn’t happy about Bielsa’s actions against his old Derby side, then he won’t be a fan of this. 

Andre Villas Boas confirmed in 2011 that he had set up an Opponent Observation Department when working under Jose Mourinho with the Blues. He claimed that he would go out as a scout and visit other training grounds – and said that his work would allow Mourinho to know when an opposition player was at their strongest and weakest. 

Huddersfield Town (2004)

Following the infamous ‘spygate’ incident, footballers began to share their stories. Former Blackpool hero Gary Taylor-Fletcher was one of them who provided an interesting insight into one half-time team talk that was unexpectedly interrupted when he was playing for Lincoln City against Huddersfield in a Division Three play-off semi-final. 

Huddersfield’s kitman was up in the celling before one of the tiles cracked and fell under his weight and he tried to make a quick escape. Taylor-Fletcher later revealed that they didn’t report it ‘because there was not really as big a media coverage back then.’

Nice try, Brooky.  

Sheffield United (2001)

Neil Warnock

The enigmatic Neil Warnock is the centre of this one. Then-Burnley manager Stan Ternent accused Warnock of sending someone to listen in to a team-talk – in a match which ​Sheffield United won 2-0 to leave Burnley unable to reach the play-offs. 

Warnock vehemently denied any wrongdoing and even encouraged Ternent to report him. Whether it was all handbags or if there was truth to it, it’s clear the pair didn’t see eye-to-eye. 


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