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Paddy Davitt: Spying and social ills. When did football stop being entertainment?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:27 23 January 2019

Leeds impressed in a 3-0 win at Norwich City earlier this season 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Leeds impressed in a 3-0 win at Norwich City earlier this season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Marcelo Bielsa might be better advised getting his staff to give Elland Road a lick of pink paint ahead of City's visit.

The Leeds chief reportedly met FA officials in London earlier this week, as the investigation into what is now known as ‘spygate’ stepped up a notch or two.

This, after Norwich City confirmed over the weekend they were one of 11 signatories to a letter urging the EFL for ‘full disclosure’ into the events that led to a member of Bielsa’s backroom set-up apprehended at Derby County’s training ground.

Followed by the Argentine’s bid for a cameo in any re-make of City’s amusing ‘The Office’-themed season ticket renewals’ video, featuring Stuart Webber, Ben Kensell and a selection of players.

Bielsa went full David Brent with a forensically-detailed powerpoint presentation to gathered media, prior to his side’s 2-1 league defeat at Stoke City, that merely fanned the indignation rather than sought to project the idea spying on Championship rivals was an optional extra to the main business of his cutting edge scouting preparations.

City’s pending trip to one of their main promotion foes at the start of next month hardly required any further logs thrown on the bonfire.

Both clubs had already confirmed respective sell-outs for what promises to be a titanic tussle on the pitch; which is where it should stay.

The toxic undercurrent to the news Norwich seek clarification – not sanctions for the record – that spewed across social media is unedifying and encapsulates the worst excesses of the medium.

A platform for communication and education at its best can also be a sewer for vile abuse, a portal for insults from anonymous corners of the football fanspace.

The fact a hashtag #welcomenorwich was spawned in recent days, seeking to make life uncomfortable for Daniel Farke’s squad or the away fans as they travel to the stadium, is something that will no doubt be addressed by the relevant safety authorities.

It should be noted plenty of Leeds supporters sought to quickly caution against the idea.

You can debate elsewhere whether this is a societal problem given expression through football.

The political ferment around the country over our future relationship with mainland Europe, and the divisions that provokes within Parliament and the electorate at large, illustrate these are tense, uncertain times.

What occurs at Elland Road on February 2 should be a showcase of everything that is good about the Championship between two excellent sets of players and astute coaches who have led the way for a number of months.

Leeds were as good as any side to visit Carrow Road earlier in the season.

The Canaries may have still been finding their way, but the tempo and the intensity to Bielsa’s troops was admirable in an emphatic 3-0 away win; particularly given the sizeable disadvantage of those pink walls in the away dressing room, a story that produced much merriment at Norwich’s expense when it first emerged a fortnight or so earlier against West Brom.

The widespread theory behind such a striking choice of colour appears to be that studies have shown pink is said to lower testosterone levels and have a calming effect.

I was reminded of that earlier this week when I received a polite email from a Leeds season ticket holder of 35 years standing.

He suggested Norwich’s attempts to ‘impair player performance’ in such a novel manner could also potentially lead to charges they had breached the EFL Club’s Charter – one of the aspects that collective letter delivered to the Football League recently now seeks to clarify.

A pot or two of pink paint, on the face of it, would seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum to a pre-meditated spying network overseen by Bielsa to gain an unfair advantage.

But in all seriousness, the bile and the entrenched rhetoric, from either side of the social media divide, needs to be toned down dramatically in the days ahead.

You can get your fix of that elsewhere in Britain 2019. Football is supposed to be entertainment.

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