PFA supports Preston players
The Professional Footballers' Association does not believe any of Preston North End's players deliberately intended to undermine their team when leaking information to Sheffield Wednesday ahead of Saturday's League One clash.
Preston were beaten by two Gary Madine goals at Hillsborough on Saturday lunchtime and furious manager Graham Westley immediately accused four players of informing the Wednesday camp of their intended team and tactics in his post-match press conference.
North End chairman Peter Ridsdale has since confirmed tactical information had been divulged, but that it had not been done with any malicious intent.
The PFA's assistant chief executive John Bramhall said: "We've spoken with one of the players already and a couple have commented on Twitter that they could not believe any of their team-mates would deliberately jeopardise their team's chances.
"The chairman has since said information was given, but that there was no intention to undermine their team-mates and that it was not malicious. He accepts that and we would support that - that the information has been inadvertently leaked."
Ridsdale, who appointed Westley in January, has backed the manager's claims but insisted the actions were not malicious.
"What Graham said after the game on Saturday was true," Ridsdale told the Lancashire Evening Post. "It was almost said in the heat of the moment after the disappointment of a defeat, and it was disappointing that our pre-match preparations were known to the opposition in advance.
"I'm aware categorically where the information came from, although I don't think it was done maliciously. It's unfortunate that it happened, but it's time to draw a line under it and move on in order to focus on our game against MK Dons on Saturday."
Bramhall said the players' union would continue to monitor the situation, but that Ridsdale's comments had helped to diffuse the situation.
Bramhall added: "You would hope managers would be more mindful of their comments. An allegation had been made. It's a serious allegation against his players' integrity, but you have to accept the chairman's comments that they had been made in the heat of the moment.
"It's difficult to understand why players would jeopardise the chances of their team getting a result and risk putting their team-mates closer to relegation."
Westley, 44, led Stevenage to the Football League for the first time in the club's history in 2010 and secured back-to-back promotions the following season when steering them to League One.
He replaced Graham Alexander as Preston boss in January, but the Lilywhites have won only two of the 15 games they have played since Westley took charge and have slipped to 16th place in the table, six points above the relegation zone.
His short stay at Deepdale has so far been riddled with controversy after reports emerged in national newspapers that he informed players they would not be playing by text message in the early hours on the day of a game at Yeovil.
Despite Ridsdale's confirmation that details were leaked, several Preston players have taken to Twitter to register their disbelief at the claims.
Striker Neil Mellor, who was not involved at Hillsborough, tweeted: "Wasn't involved with game sat v owls but can't believe this story my team mates would leak the team."
Fellow striker Iain Hume, who was an unused substitute, said: "I can categorically say I never have and never would tell anyone any inside info! 2 be honest I think it's all utter rubbish!
"...the comments in my eyes came from somebody tryin 2 unsettle our dressin room! My opinion 2 be honest! Can't see and....
"hopefully proven right that any of my team mates would divulge info like that! We're close and it needs 2 stay that way!"
Preston later released a statement confirming there would be no further public comment regarding the issue.
The statement read: "Immediately following Saturday's match at Sheffield Wednesday, comments were made with regard to the 'leaking of information' regarding our team and tactics.
"Further to a number of meetings held within the club today, the club considers that this matter has now been dealt with and we will be making no further public comment on this issue."