The Premier League have blocked Ashley Cole's latest attempt to clear his name over the Chelsea tapping-up scandal that engulfed the England international in January by refusing to recognise the authority of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne in a move that has triggered yet another expensive legal battle between the two sides.
Later this month, 11 months since Cole's infamous meeting with Jose Mourinho and the Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon in a London hotel, the CAS will decide whether they have the jurisdiction to rule on an appeal by the Arsenal defender against his guilty verdict. Cole's lawyer, Graham Shear, has written to the court with a view to them hearing his client's case in the new year, while the Premier League's lawyers have also informed the CAS that they will not abide by the court's rulings.
Cole was originally fined £100,000 by an independent commission on 1 June for his part in the meeting which led to Chelsea and Mourinho also being fined a total of £600,000, later reduced, for breaking the Premier League's "tapping-up" regulations. Although Cole's fine was also reduced on appeal to £75,000, the player and his agent, Jonathan Barnett, are determined to prove that the tapping-up rules - which prevent approaches from rival clubs to players under contract - are unlawful.
Chelsea will not take their case to the CAS, but Cole and his advisors believe that, as Shear said after the original verdicts, the contracts amount to a "master and servant" relationship. The Premier League are aware that any erosion of transfer regulations could cause chaos and have instructed their barrister Mark Gay QC to tell the CAS they will not recognise the court's authority.
Established in 1984, the CAS is made up of lawyers and sports administrators and is used by a range of sports to arbitrate on legal disputes. The Premier League are confident that their regulations state that players do not have any further opportunity to press their case after it has been heard by an appeal board.
The first judgment on the Cole scandal was passed by an independent commission led by Sir Phillip Otton and the appeal was heard by a different three-man board led by the Leeds-based QC Simon Bourne-Arton. A spokesman for the Premier League said: "The rules of the CAS state that for a hearing of this nature to fall under their jurisdiction there has to be provision in our rules, a view supported by Fifa. There is no such provision in the Premier League rule book. In fact, rule R63 says the decision of our appeal board shall be final."
Despite blaming Arsenal for bringing the case to a Premier League commission in the first place, Cole, 25, signed a new £70,000-a-week, three-year deal with the club in August. However, despite a current stress fracture to his foot that has ruled him out since October, he is understood to be a serious transfer target for Real Madrid this summer.
The Spanish club are understood to have identified him and Bayern Munich's Phillip Lahm, 22, as potential successors to the Brazilian Roberto Carlos who is set to leave in the summer. Although there are said to have been talks between Real Madrid and Roy Keane's lawyer, Michael Kennedy, there is believed to be no firm interest in taking Keane to the Bernabeu.
The Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb is set to make his return from a knee injury in next week's Champions' League tie against Ajax. With crucial games against Newcastle and Chelsea later in the month, Wenger said that he expected the Belarussian to be fit. Wenger said: "He is back training with the squad and I think he will play against Ajax. If we were in a real crisis, he could even travel with us to Bolton this weekend."Reuse content