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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
The truth about 'tapping up'
By Paul Fletcher

Chelsea and their manager Jose Mourinho have been found guilty of illegally "tapping up" Arsenal defender Ashley Cole.

They have broken Premier League rules forbidding rival clubs to approach a contracted player without permission from their employers.

The England left-back has in turn been been found guilty of talking to Chelsea with a view to negotiating a transfer without approval from Arsenal.

Chelsea, Cole and Mourinho have all been hit with massive fines as the Premier League seeks to prevent other players and clubs from following suit.

Several figures involved in football explain why "tapping up" is a problem blighting the game.


Tapping up is nothing new.

Many people involved in football will tell you that it has happened as long as they have been involved in the sport.

A prominent agent told BBC Sport: "It has always been part and parcel of the game.

Tony Cascarino in his playing days with Nancy-Lorraine
Cascarino was told to find himself a new club

"A manager who wants to approach a player under contract will probably go through a third party unless he is very confident.

"Agents are often involved but it cannot happen without the knowledge of both clubs involved.

"Ultimately you cannot have a deal without someone buying and selling."

Sometimes unwanted players are encouraged to find a new club even though they are still under contract.

"Clubs can openly do it when they don't want a player; it only seems to be a problem when it involves players they don't want to sell," said former Republic of Ireland international Tony Cascarino.

"One day the manager at a club I played for called me into his office and said 'I'm not keeping you but I'm not putting you on the transfer list - I want you to go and find yourself a club.'"


According to those inside football, tapping up is extremely common.

"It is happening all the time," said Cascarino.

Current Aston Villa manager David O'Leary claims he was tapped up several times while he was an Arsenal player in the 1980s.

"We all know what goes on in the game," said O'Leary.

Aston Villa manager David O'Leary
O'Leary was tapped-up as an Arsenal player

"Everyone knows it is happening. It is just about how blatant someone is in doing it."

BBC Sport columnist Alan Hansen is also in no doubt that tapping up is part of football.

"It has been going on since the beginning of time," said Hansen. "Everybody knows it is going on."


The issue of who is responsible for tapping up is complicated.

Depending on the circumstances, clubs, managers, agents and players all have their part to play.

If a player leaves a club after being tapped-up it is difficult to see how the buying club, the player and the player's agent have not been involved.

"Agents get paid an enormous amount of commission if they get paid by the buying club - that is always where the big fees are, with the buying side," said the agent.

"If an agent has a player that is good enough to have people trying to 'tap' him up then his agent will make money by looking after him properly - it is out and out greed that is the problem."

But the apparent reluctance by football authorities to use the full range of punishments available to them does not help.

The power to dock points and/or suspend a club from buying players during the transfer window are available to the Premier League but a fine or a warning seem to be its preferred punishments.

"It is very depressing," the agent told BBC Sport.

"Recently I discovered an enormous wrongdoing, it was outrageous.

"I gave the relevant authorities everything they needed but still, six months later, nothing has been done.

"I honestly believe agents have a lot to answer for, but then again why should they when nothing is going to happen?

"If people aren't going to get in trouble for going through a red light they will keep going through red lights.

"The Premier League could do it if it chose to but it is rather difficult when the members of various committees are also chairman of football clubs.

"Why are they resisting having an independent body? If they really want to put their house in order why are they worried about that?"


With the Premiership a division of untold riches, many of those determined to see tapping up wiped out are of the opinion that financial punishments are increasingly meaningless to wealthy clubs.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter
Blatter wants to see clubs banned from buying players

"It has been going on for ages but no-one wants to do anything about it," said the agent who spoke to BBC Sport.

"Points deducted are the only way that is going to stop it. That would scare clubs - docking 10 points would make them think twice.

"There are people who want to do something about it but they perhaps don't have the know-how - or maybe lack the courage."

The docking of points as a deterrent also has the approval of Hansen.

"The only type of action that will have any positive effect is the docking of points," said the former Scotland and Liverpool star.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter wants to see a situation where clubs are suspended from buying players during the transfer window.

"I think that is a good idea," said Blatter.

"We need more discipline and more respect for the regulations."

Chelsea, Mourinho and Cole fined
01 Jun 05 |  Premiership


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