Cole waits to give evidence at inquiry into 'tapping-up'

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The Independent Football

Ashley Cole, the Arsenal and England left-back, has been ordered to appear before the Premier League's "tapping-up" inquiry in London today.

Ashley Cole, the Arsenal and England left-back, has been ordered to appear before the Premier League's "tapping-up" inquiry in London today.

The three-man independent commission will hear from the player at the centre of the scandal after spending much of the opening day listening to evidence from the Chelsea coach, Jose Mourinho, and the club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon.

Cole was available to give his evidence yesterday, but it is understood he was not questioned.

The hearing, much to the anger of the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, has already interfered with preparations for Saturday's FA Cup final against Manchester United, but the Frenchman is understood to have made an appearance in support of Cole.

Wenger and vice-chairman David Dein maintain that Chelsea made an illegal approach for the England defender and will push for a severe penalty if the commission find the Premiership champions guilty.

The charges handed out to Cole and Chelsea relate to a meeting in a London hotel in February. Kenyon, Mourinho, agent Pini Zahavi, Cole and his adviser, Jonathan Barnett, were all in attendance and the gathering was, it is alleged, a breach of rules which govern contact with players contracted to another club.

Chelsea claim Cole and Barnett were responsible for instigating the meeting, but Wenger backs the player's version of events.

Talks over a new contract for Cole have stalled since the affair began but Wenger is hoping that his show of support will persuade the 24-year-old to resume negotiations.

Wenger had asked the Premier League to delay announcing the verdict until after the showdown with United at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff but that now seems unlikely.

If Chelsea are found guilty after the two-day inquiry they are extremely unlikely to be docked points. It is understood that any punishment will be in the form of a hefty fine.

Mourinho and Kenyon attended the hearing before flying out to South Korea for a post-season friendly.

Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, has demanded that clubs found guilty of "tapping up" players should face being banned from buying and selling for one transfer window.

"It is a good idea," Blatter said. "We need more discipline and more respect for the regulations."

Chelsea are to mark their Premiership title success with an open-top bus parade from Stamford Bridge to the New Kings Road on Sunday. Details of expected road closures are on www.lbhf.gov.uk, and the procession route is on the club's official website.

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