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Do Football Teams Spy On Each Other?

Adrian Mudd   June 23, 2016

Van Gaal is paranoid about delivery vans, the French national team got infiltrated by a drone at the World Cup and Crystal Palace were fined for doing it to Cardiff City – but how many of our premiership or international teams would actually spy on each other?

Staying late after training, laying off the alcohol and hitting the gym a little harder are the obvious choices if you want to beat the competition and fulfil the dream of drinking out of that elusive trophy. The sad truth is that a lot of our top flight players probably do put the extra hours in, but sometimes the manager knows it isn’t good enough. When you’ve got players like Ivanovic, Sanchez and Aguero taking the ball round their opponents as if they’re playing against a Sunday side, where else can you go? What about your oppositions’ training ground?

Football SpiesIt doesn’t take a genius to figure out that spying on your rival’s training sessions, getting to grips with their formation plays and having the knowledge that you’re one step ahead of them is going to make a huge impact on your performance (knowing that the managing staff have no faith in your ability might not though…). Each Premier League place up the table is worth around £1.2m – not exactly loose change – and plus, you get to play Bond for a couple of days.

So why isn’t everyone doing it? For the sake of sportsmanship and to preserve the history of the beautiful game, we’d definitely class it as cheating absolutely worthy of an abusive billboard being erected in your town centre. But it certainly isn’t illegal. Nobody is going to cuff Klopp for hanging around Leicester’s training ground (although what IS going on in there this season), but it’s certainly frowned upon.

Moody and the mole

A great (and slightly ridiculous) example of this type of thoroughly-unsporting conduct is the case of Palace vs. Cardiff City. When eccentric Cardiff owner Vincent Tan accused Iain Moody of intercepting his starting line-up for Palace clash in April 2014, we all laughed it off as ‘classic Vincent’ behaviour. While there was no suggestion that Moody was spotted crouching in the bushes with a long lens camera, instead he was thought to have collected information from his former Bluebirds club mates.

The incestuous nature of the Premier League is Moody’s downfall here. A text from Moody, naming Aron Gunnarsson as the sneaky Cardiff mole, with a list of their line up was accidentally sent to Bolton manager Dougie Freedman, who then passed the message onto Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Solskjaer made the bold decision not to change his team and Palace ended up winning the fixture 3-0. Tan’s five-page complaint was drafted and so began investigations into Moody’s attempt at mission impossible.The powers-that-be at the Premier League ended up fining The Eagles for breaching the ‘utmost good faith’ rule and clubs realised that blatantly interfering with another team’s tactics will not land you in jail.

Pretty snakey behaviour all round, but what’s £25,000 when you’ve successfully managed to avoid relegation? So if (big IF) one of our top flight teams wanted to get in on the 007 action, how could they (legally) go about it?

Find an insider

The first example is pretty obvious and was (allegedly) demonstrated quite nicely by midfielder Aron Gunnersson back in 2014. Someone who is willing to feed information from inside the camp is an asset to pretty much any competitive situation. Team formations, tactics and late line up changes are all excellent information to have to hand when planning your attack and, because nobody wants to be called a grass, hopefully everyone will stay quiet. Unless you text your information to a fellow club manager, of course.

Listening devices

Now we’re talking. Planting a listening device, like the ones found on Spy Equipment UK in a rival club’s training ground, is toeing the line of legality but don’t worry, the managers in the Premier League will be able to get away with a slap on the wrist if caught. Training grounds count as a ‘business area’ and, as long as you don’t hide microphones in the changing rooms, are fair game for anyone hoping to listen in on some key team talks. That’s if the training grounds aren’t fully surrounded by security after this article goes live.

Football Strategy

The media

How on earth do they do it? Tabloid sports journalists seem to know more about the Premier clubs than the players do. Potential signings, who’s being a diva at training and what goes on in the changing rooms – the hacks at the likes of the Daily Mail are the keepers of all knowledge. Even if half of it is absolute garbage, managers would do well to take on-board what the media have to say, after all, they’re the ones with the long-lens camera shots…

Turning up at the ground

Nobody knows what to do when faced with brazen-faced confidence, so strolling up to a rival training ground, having a peek through the gates or even walking through the door is likely to cause mass panic in the camp. There might only be a glimpse of the training schedule, but it’ll be enough to ‘put a cat among the pigeons’ for any upcoming matches. This won’t work for everyone though, as a coach in Genoa found out when he was caught spying in his all-in-one camo suit.

While there’s no suggestion of foul play among the teams cruising through the season quite nicely, there’s definitely a feel of paranoia in the air. Premiership footballers are our gods among men and if we (mostly) trust their talent, skills and ability to sink a ball into the back of the net, then why shouldn’t their managers? Yes it would be very easy to spy on your rival sides, but it’s just not needed.

Come on Louis, take the perimeter fence down and let the delivery drivers do their jobs. We’re not too sure you’d be the best team to take tips from this season anyway…