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Tapping up

If Chelsea are contemplating reporting us to the Premier League for tapping-up John Terry, then Mark Hughes's latest comments would hardly have helped smooth relations between the two camps:

'We made a bid for John but we tried to keep it under the radar.

'Chelsea allowed the bid to enter the public domain and ever since I have been answering questions on the matter.

'There was no issue that needed to be raised.'

What is interesting though, is exactly what constitutes 'tapping up' in the eyes of the Premier League. Section K of the Premier League handbook specifically concerns approaches to players:



Approaches to Players

1. A Club shall be at liberty at any time to make an approach to a Player with a view to
negotiating a contract with such a Player:
1.1 if he is an Out of Contract Player, or,
1.2 in the case of a Contract Player, with the prior written consent of the Club (or club) to
which he is contracted.

2. A Club shall be at liberty after the third Saturday in May in any year and before the 1st July
next following to make such an approach to a Contract Player:
2.1 who will become an Out of Contract Player on that 1st July; and
2.2 who has received no offer from his Club under Rule M.17.2 or
2.3 who has received but has declined such offer.

3. Any Club which by itself, by any of its Officials, by any of its Players, by its Agent, by any other Person on its behalf or by any other means whatsoever makes an approach either directly or indirectly to a Contract Player except as permitted by either Rule K.1.2 or Rule K.2 shall be in
breach of these Rules and may be dealt with under the provisions of Section R.

4. For the purposes of Rules K.2 and K.3, "Contract Player" shall include a player who has entered into a written contract of employment with a Football League club.

The difficulty here is distinguishing precisely what is covered under Rule K 1.2 and Rule K.3. From what we know, we have made two legitimate bids for Terry, which Chelsea (quite within their rights) have turned down.

The key phrase appears to be '...makes an approach either directly or indirectly to a Contract Player'.

As it stands, it does not appear that we have made a direct approach to Terry, but what does determine an indirect approach?

Both the club and Mark Hughes have been very vocal and public in their courtship of Terry, and this in itself could be argued as an indirect approach. However, and as Mark Hughes stated, he interprets this as merely answering questions that have been posed to him.

Again, as far as we know, there has been no agent or third party contact between ourselves and Terry to 'register' our interest. You would have to be naive though to think that in the course of negotiating and completing transfers that such action on occasion does not occur.

But whilst a direct approach is easy to prove (as with the case with Chelsea's meeting with Ashley Cole whilst he was an Arsenal player), an indirect approach? Short of having documentary evidence to link a club with a third party in which they confirm their intentions, there is very little the Premier League can do to pursue the matter.

For this reason, unless we have been totally underhand (and stupid), I don't see the Premier League pursuing any investigation.