Ashley Cole’s legal team admits it is “very likely” they will take a restraint of trade case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after losing their appeal against his guilty verdict in the tapping-up row with Chelsea.
Cole’s fine for illegal talks with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and chief executive Peter Kenyon has now been reduced from £100,000 (€145,000) to £75,000 (€109,000) by a Premier League appeals committee.
However, while Mourinho’s fine was also reduced to £75,000 (€109,000) – from £200,000 (€290,000) - both men were still found guilty of having flouted Premier League rules with their controversial talks at a London hotel last season.
After the original hearing, Cole’s legal team had pledged to contest the matter all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if they were unsuccessful in their appeal.
However, that was before Cole’s decision to sign a new contract at Arsenal and before his fine was partly reduced at yesterday’s appeal hearing.
The Arsenal full-back must therefore consider whether it is in the best interests of himself and his club to now drop the matter and focus completely on the new season – or to fight on a matter of principle.
A statement issued on Cole’s behalf by solicitor Graham Shear last night read: “Whilst the decision to reduce Ashley Cole’s fine was encouraging, we were very surprised with the result because the appeal commission seemed receptive and sympathetic to our arguments on restraint of trade.
“I will await the commission’s reasons, which are due next week, and will then discuss the situation further with Ashley.
“However at this time my instructions from Ashley are clear and an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne is very likely.”
Cole’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, who was singled out for blame by the original commission, will also now discover whether the Football Association will take disciplinary action against him for his role in the saga.
Mourinho, meanwhile, pledged to draw a line under the matter after the £125,000 (€181,000) reduction in his fine at yesterday’s hearing.
A statement released by Chelsea declared: “Jose Mourinho and Chelsea are pleased the Premier League appeals committee has significantly reduced the fine imposed on Jose.
“We always regarded the original fine as completely disproportionate to the alleged offence. We are also pleased that the appeals committee has publicly recognised that Jose’s culpability with respect to the arranged meeting was less than Ashley Cole’s.
“Although we are disappointed the original verdict still stands, we accept the verdict and believe it is time to move on and look forward to the new Premiership season.”
Mourinho argued it was unfair to charge him separately to Chelsea, with his lawyer, Jim Sturman, citing the case of Gerard Houllier, who was not punished even though Liverpool were accused of an illegal approach for Christian Ziege four years ago.
With Mourinho and Cole punished equally, the significant blame has therefore been attached to Chelsea as a club, who were fined £300,000 (€435,000) following the initial hearing in June and did not appeal.
A Premier League statement concluded: “In both cases, the Premier League appeals committee has dismissed the appeals on findings.
“However, in respect of Ashley Cole’s appeal on sanctions, the committee found in favour in part and, in doing so, reduced the fine imposed from £100,000 (€145,000) to £75,000 (€109,000).
“The committee also found favour in part in Jose Mourinho’s appeal on his sanctions, deciding that although he had a greater responsibility as a manager and senior club representative, he was less culpable for the arranged meeting.
“As such, his fine is reduced from £200,000 (€290,000) to £75,000 (€109,000).”