Guilty verdicts in ‘tapping-up’ case

Fines for club, manager and player for breach of Premier League rules

The FA Premier League has found Chelsea FC, its manager Jose Mourinho and Arsenal FC player Ashley Cole in breach of its rules over the ‘tapping-up’ of Cole.  Chelsea have been fined £300,000, Mourinho £200,000 and Cole £100,000.

After newspaper reports of a meeting between senior Chelsea officials, including Mourinho, and Cole in January, Arsenal made an official complaint to the Premier League. The League appointed an Independent Commission to investigate, made up of former Court of Appeal Judge, Sir Phillip Otton, former secretary to the Football League David Dent, and Malcolm George, a former Assistant Chief Constable.

The Commission today ruled that Chelsea FC were in breach of Premier League Rule K3, which prohibits a club making an approach to a player under contract, either directly or indirectly, without first obtaining permission of the club to which he is under contract. Mourinho was found to be in breach of Rule Q, which prohibits a manager from taking any steps “intended to induce any player employed by another club to act in breach of his contract”.

Ashley Cole was found to be in breach of Rule K5 which states that a player under contract, either by himself or by any other party acting his behalf, shall not either directly or indirectly make any approach to a club with a view to negotiating a contract without obtaining the prior written consent of the club to which he is under contract.

In announcing their sanctions the Commission stated that although Cole had been “manipulated” by his agent, he had nevertheless willingly attended the meeting. Chelsea’s behaviour in responding to the invitation of agents to attend the meeting was “unacceptable … rash and dangerous”. Mourinho “played a pivotal role”, his presence as manager being “vital”. All three fines were said to intend to discourage others from acting in a similar way in future.

The Commission stated its regret at being unable to punish those it clearly viewed as primarily responsible for the affair, the agents Jonathan Barnett and Pini Zahavi, who are now likely to face investigation by the FA and FIFA. The Commission rejected a claim by Arsenal for compensation from Chelsea.

All parties have indicated that they will appeal and have 14 days in which to do so. It is thought that Ashley Cole may challenge the Premier League rules as an illegal restraint of trade, an argument he foreshadowed in his defence to the charge.

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