Football: `Tapping up' inquiry could call on Cole to help uncover truth

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ASHLEY COLE could be asked to give evidence to a Premier League commission investigating allegations that Chelsea made an illegal approach for the Arsenal defender.

Both clubs are set to receive written notification of the remit of the inquiry, which was formally launched on Sunday after Arsenal told the Premier League they want the truth behind reports that their England player was "tapped up".

Reports claimed that Cole, who is in negotiations with Arsenal over a new contract - met Chelsea's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, and the club's manager, Jose Mourinho, at a London hotel to discuss a potential transfer. It was also claimed that the agent Pini Zahavi, who has a close relationship with Chelsea, and Cole's own agent, Jonathan Barnett, were present.

While agreement over a specific date for the hearing to begin is likely to take some time, once the process is under way, the commission will seek representation from all parties. The 24-year-old Cole may be asked for a written statement.

"We are awaiting a response from the clubs and after that we will be looking to obtain a mutually convenient date for the hearing," a Premier League spokesman said. "We have the power to call people in, we will look at it and gather evidence, and our lawyers will construct that [evidence] in conjunction with Arsenal and Chelsea." The spokesman added: "We are adjudicating, rather than prosecuting."

Cole's possible future employer Roman Abramovich, meanwhile, has emerged as a possible contender to be the next president of the Russian Football Union.

The Amateur Football League of Russia announced yesterday that it would support Abramovich as a candidate for the April vote. "Roman Abramovich meets the criteria the best: he knows the football world from inside and is an effective organiser and manager who already has authority in the international football arena," the AFL said in a statement.

A source close to the billionaire said: "If they want to put his name forward, that's fine with him. Roman does not oppose being nominated for the presidency of the RFU."

So far two people, the St Petersburg politician Vitaly Mutko, who is a close friend of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the former Soviet goalkeeper Anzor Kavazashvili have been officially nominated to succeed the RFU's long-time head, Vyacheslav Koloskov.

The 64-year-old resigned last month after more than 25 years in the job, forced out by government officials unhappy at the way he was running Russia's most popular sport. The RFU general assembly is due to vote for its next president on 2 April.

As well as being the Chelsea owner and the governor of the Russian province of Chukotka, Abramovich is also involved in running a charitable football fund in Russia. However, the Abramovich source said: "The Chelsea organisation is headed by a team of top-notch professionals and Roman doesn't need to spend much time running the club, so he could devote his time to other projects if he really wants to. There shouldn't be a conflict of interest if he is elected the RFU president."