Sport’s spying controversies

Eddie Jones claims England were filmed by an unidentified cameraman during training ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

By Press Association Published: 22 October 2019 - 8.14am

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England

Eddie Jones claimed England were spied on during training in the build-up to their Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Japan.

England were completing one of their most important sessions of the week at their Tokyo base when, according to Jones, an unidentified cameraman was spotted in a building overlooking the pitch.

The Australian shrugged off the incident, though, saying: “There was definitely someone in the apartment block filming, but it might have been a Japanese fan. We don’t care mate. We knew about it from the start, it doesn’t change anything. We love it.”

In a lighthearted tone, Jones admitted he used to spy on teams himself, but said:  “I haven’t done it since 2001. You just don’t need to do it any more, you can see everything.”

Here, the PA news agency looks at other occasions where teams and individuals tried to gain an extra edge.

The original Spygate (Formula One)

Fernando Alonso File Photo
Fernando Alonso was caught up in F1’s spying controversy (Tim Goode/PA)

McLaren were fined 100 million US dollars and thrown out of the constructors’ championship in 2007 for being in illegal possession of Ferrari’s entire technical data. The 780-page dossier was leaked to McLaren by disgruntled Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney. Fernando Alonso, who was caught up in the email exchange of the illicit information, threatened to tell all to the sport’s world governing body the FIA unless he was granted number one status over Lewis Hamilton – a demand that brought about his acrimonious departure from the British team after just one season. Stepney meanwhile, was sentenced in Italy to 20 months in prison. He died in a road accident in 2014, aged 56.

British and Irish Lions tour (rugby union)

Rugby Union – 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour – British and Irish Lions Training Session – Anglican Church Grammar School
Lions head coach Warren Gatland oversees a training session in Queensland during the 2013 tour (David Davies/PA)

Lions head coach Warren Gatland claimed his side’s training sessions prior to their warm-up match against Queensland Reds and ahead of the three-Test tour against Australia in 2013 had been recorded on video. Gatland said members of his coaching staff chased away a mystery man, attempting to film his squad. Australia denied any wrongdoing and accused the Lions of creating a sideshow. Gatland later back-tracked on his initial claims.

Genoa coach “hid like Rambo” to spy on rivals (football)

Back in 2013, Italian side Genoa suspended one of their coaches after he was found spying on a training session held by city rivals Sampdoria. Luca De Pra, a youth-team coach, was said to be hiding in bushes while dressed in camouflage gear. In a statement, Sampdoria said De Pra was hiding like “Rambo under a tree”. Genoa, who denied any knowledge of De Pra’s activities, won the ensuing match 3-0.

Man detained ahead of England World Cup semi-final (football)

A man was arrested ahead of England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia last summer, suspected of spying on Gareth Southgate’s side. The man was accused of acting suspiciously on a roof, 180 metres away from England’s training base. He was asked to delete panorama photos and then released without charge.

Marcelo Bielsa admits ‘observing’ every Championship opponent (football)

Barnsley v Leeds United – Sky Bet Championship – Oakwell
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa was caught up in a spying controversy (Tim Goode/PA)

Midway through the 2018/19 Championship season, Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa admitted he had snooped on every team his side had faced that campaign, saying it was part of his preparation for every match. Bielsa made the revelation after police had been called to Derby’s training ground ahead of the meeting between the two sides to escort away a man “acting suspiciously” on the perimeter of the complex, later confirmed to be an employee of Leeds.