Verdict due in landmark Cole tapping-up case

Chelsea could face one of the biggest financial penalties ever handed out in football when the verdict is announced tomorrow over their alleged illegal approach for Ashley Cole.

Chelsea could face one of the biggest financial penalties ever handed out in football when the verdict is announced tomorrow over their alleged illegal approach for Ashley Cole.

The independent three-man commission, chaired by High Court judge Sir Philip Otton, will rule on the conduct of Chelsea, Cole and Jose Mourinho after a two-day hearing earlier this month.

This follows allegations that Mourinho, Cole and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon secretly met at a London hotel along with Cole’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, and Chelsea’s ’super agent’ Pini Zahavi.

Arsenal, with whom Cole is under contract until 2007, lodged an official complaint after the alleged meeting took place in January and prompted a Premier League inquiry.

Chelsea vigorously defended themselves at last month’s hearing and are still hoping the tribunal will show leniency and understanding by at least not painting them as the main, or sole, offenders.

Indeed, they look set to avoid the maximum penalty of being docked points, possibly from the start of next season, or a block on transfer activity this summer.

However, it appears more likely they will instead be fined with one of the biggest financial penalties ever handed out, but still relatively small change for billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

Cole himself could also be fined, which would be likely to place greater strain on his relations with Arsenal, who now face an uphill battle to keep him at Highbury, while Mourinho could face a similar punishment.

The decision is set to be relayed tomorrow afternoon at the Premier League’s London headquarters, although neither Cole, who is on tour with England in the United States, or Mourinho, who is on holiday, will be present.

Instead, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck will be among the legal personnel who gather to hear the verdicts before the news is then relayed publicly.

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