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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak: Leeds Trickery Cost $1M




Already icy relations between Leeds United and Spartak Moscow have plunged even lower with a bitter war of words after Spartak accused the English side of conspiring to have their UEFA Cup game canceled, costing the Russian champion $1 million.


The soccer sides' third-round, first leg UEFA Cup game was postponed last Thursday when UEFA delegates ruled the pitch at Dynamo Stadium to be too dangerous after temperatures hit minus 18 degrees Celsius in Moscow. The game was rescheduled to be played in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on Thursday.


Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale has rejected the allegations, saying the club is compiling a report to present to UEFA, soccer's European governing body.


"We will be writing down all the things that have fallen into the category of psychological warfare and presenting a file to UEFA," The Yorkshire Post quoted Ridsdale as saying Monday.


"If they have not broken any rules it may be more a case of ungentlemanly conduct. Some of the things leveled at us in the last week have bordered on the libelous."


At a news conference in Moscow on Friday, three of Spartak's top officials had called Leeds dishonorable, unfair and cunning, saying the Yorkshire side had been intent on having the match moved a week before its visit.


"On the television screen the Leeds trainer looks an honorable and honest person, but only a dishonorable person could offer such things," said Spartak general director Yury Zavarzin in Sport Express newspaper, claiming that Leeds manager David O'Leary had suggested moving the match back to Dec. 9 - particularly tough for a Spartak side that has not played a game since Nov. 8.


"Even if the English go past Spartak," he said, "I wish with all my heart that they go out in the next round. And more than that, I wish that such a team like Leeds never makes it into European competition anymore. Again, I want to repeat that the whole team wishes that Leeds plays in Europe no more."


Spartak officials also claimed that Europe is biased against Russian teams and backed up the statement by reeling off a long list of decisions that have gone against Spartak and the national team.


"The referees and the English came here with one aim - to cancel the match. You could guess that already a week ago. They can do anything," said coach and club president Oleg Romantsev, who claimed that it was again bias against Spartak that forced the side to play Partizan in Belgrade while Leeds got to play at a neutral venue.


Leeds first offended the Moscow club by sending it two faxes, one saying the English side was unhappy with its prematch visit and another refusing all hospitality offered by the club. Leeds also complained to UEFA about the prematch visit, Spartak claims.


"Now, I understand that the fax was the first step," said Spartak vice president Grigory Yesaulenko. "Even then, the English wanted to influence it so the match in Moscow would not take place."


Yesaulenko, the former agent of former Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis, was accused earlier this year by United manager Alex Ferguson of offering him a pounds 40,000 ($64,000) bribe and threatening to kill Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards after the two blocked Kanchelskis' transfer to Everton four years ago.


Spartak says O'Leary was unfairly present when Swedish referee Anders Frisk decided to postpone the match.


"They're cunning, they counted on everything," Romantsev said. "It's a blow below the belt."


Romantsev, who has a reputation for being an often emotional and touchy manager, seemed to have taken the decision almost as a personal slight.


"I want to warn you that neither in Bulgaria nor in Leeds will I attend a press conference. I'm not inclined to sit at the same table with dishonorable people," he said.


"Leeds has simply stolen $1 million," Romantsev said. "And our chances of making the next round are dramatically decreasing."