Forget VAR, Covid-19 cheats looks set to be the new rule stretching frontier

May 15 – An unusual corona-related football row has broken out in Austria with league leaders Linz accused by rivals of breaking Covid-19 rules by returning to full training too early. The club itself counters it has been the victim of industrial espionage.

Eleven of the 12 teams in the Austrian Bundesliga, which is due to restart in June, said they had been presented with “clear video material” showing Linz had ignored guidelines that restrict training to small groups of players under strict social distancing regulations. The Austrian football league says it is investigating.

Full training is due to begin today with matches set to resume in the country with the Austrian Cup final on 29 May before the league starts up again on June 2.

LASK has been charged with a violation of fair-play principles which could lead to points being deducted.

Stephan Reiter, commercial director of second-placed Salzburg said his club was “shocked and stunned” at LASK’s conduct while Austria Vienna said: “We are really very disappointed, because in the past few weeks we have done everything we could for the resumption of training and matches under an extreme commitment for the Bundesliga and for all the clubs. Everything is then torpedoed with such fatal actions.”

And joint statement from the entire top flight bar Linz put out the following: “These videos clearly show that the league leaders have disregarded the guidelines for small group training set by the ministry [of sports].”

Linz managing director, Andreas Protil, countered that the club had been spied upon after two individuals broke into the training ground overnight to install video surveillance cameras.

“We are shocked that there are obviously third parties who are willing to break into our club premises with criminal energy in order to carry out industrial espionage,” Protil said. “The perpetrators were filmed and are now being investigated.”

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