Football: Mourinho shows contempt as Chelsea face inquiry over Cole

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JOSE MOURINHO reacted with contempt last night to the Premier League's decision earlier in the day to launch an inquiry into the controversy over Chelsea's alleged illegal approach to Ashley Cole. If found guilty, the Stamford Bridge club could even be docked points.

On the day that Chelsea's lead at the top shrunk to nine points with a goalless draw against Manchester City, Arsenal took the lead in the dispute over Cole by challenging their rivals to prove their innocence before a three-man independent commission.

Arsenal's complaint to the Premier League - which triggered the inquiry - suggests they feel they have overwhelming evidence to prove that Mourinho and the club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, spoke to Cole about a transfer to Chelsea without their permission. The Premier League regulations forbid the "tapping up" of players and even allow the League to dock points from offenders.

However, the serious allegations against Chelsea were brushed aside by Mourinho who said that he "did not care" about the controversy. "I know nothing about it, I don't know and I don't want to know," Mourinho said. "I'm not a lawyer, I'm a football manager. What matters to me is to train to get the best results. When I win I am happy and when I don't I am not."

The alleged meeting at London's Royal Park Hotel on 27 January will now be the subject of an expensive legal dispute between the two clubs and is certain to sour relations

further between two of the Premiership's leading sides. The Premier League have been reluctant to launch the inquiry but, in the face of Arsenal's complaint now have little choice.

In a statement, Chelsea said yesterday: "Chelsea can confirm it has been in discussions with the Premier League over the last few days and we will be co-operating fully with the inquiry announced today. It would be inappropriate to make any further comment until the inquiry is completed."

Like the Football Association commissions that have heard high-profile cases - such as the one that dealt with Rio Ferdinand's missed drugs test in 2003 - the commission will be independent. Although the Premier League have not fixed a date, and are under no obligation to release the names of the individuals on the commission, they are likely to appoint those who have experience in hearing similar cases.

The criminal lawyer Peter Cadman chaired the commission that found Aston Villa guilty of tapping up James Beattie, then of Southampton, last month, and he reprimanded David O'Leary's club - the least serious punishment at his disposal. All three commission members are likely to have legal and football backgrounds.

A statement from the Premier League said: "The board of the FA Premier League convened today and have decided to launch a formal inquiry into allegations that Chelsea FC may have acted in a way so as to breach Premier League rule K3 regarding approaches to players already contracted to another club.

"The board is finally able to establish a clear position from Arsenal FC and are grateful for chairman Peter Hill-Wood's confirmation that his club want the Premier League to investigate the matter and that they will co-operate fully with any inquiry."

The Arsenal vice-chairman, David Dein, said there was a "huge credibility gap" between assurances made to him by Kenyon in the aftermath of the allegations and what he has subsequently learned to be the truth.

Dein said that the Chelsea chief executive, Cole's agent Jonathan Barnett, and the agent Pini Zahavi, also alleged to be at the meeting, were "in denial".

Arsenal, and their manager, Arsene Wenger, in particular, have been careful not to apportion any blame to Cole, who has not yet spoken about the episode. Chelsea have not denied the allegations but have refused to comment further on them.

The only comparable case to Cole's was in the year 2000 when Middlesbrough accused Liverpool of "tapping up" the then German international defender Christian Ziege.

Liverpool were subsequently fined pounds 20,000 by a Premier League commission in March 2002 after Ziege had moved to Anfield for a fee of pounds 5.5m in August 2000 and later the two clubs settled further differences out of court.

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