Tapping-up is bad, Right?

July 27, 2011

Written by 26may1989

The rules say that a club wanting to acquire a player must get the consent of the player’s current club before beginning a discussion of any sort with the player:

“Any Club which by itself, by any of its Officials, by any of its Players, by its Agent, by any other Person on its behalf or by any other means whatsoever makes an approach either directly or indirectly to a Contract Player except as permitted by either Rule K.1.2 or Rule K.2 shall be in breach of these Rules …” (Rule K.3 of the Rules of the Premier League).

Couldn’t be clearer (and it’s backed up by FIFA regulations and regulations governing agents): any approach, direct or indirect, is verboten.

But despite the clarity of the rules, Arsène Wenger said this week that: “it is a rule that has to be reviewed. It’s not really respected.” And you can understand where Wenger’s coming from when, with delicious timing, the very next day Patrice Evra showed he felt no compunction in openly demonstrated that the rules mean nothing to him:

“Of course I’ve talked a lot with [Nasri] in the holiday and also when we met up for friendly games with France at the end of the season. I told him how great it is to play for United and how important it would be for him to become of the biggest players in the world. … I just told him how good it would be for him coming here. He will have a nice welcome, and I can help as well because I’m French. …. I would definitely tell him to come to United. Definitely. I made that little joke saying that he’s a prince now but if he wants to be the king then he has to join United. But that’s the reality, and I’ve told him that. I said, ‘If you want to win trophies you have to come here.’ …. I just told him the truth.”

Could there be a more obvious breach of the rules?

We feel righteously bitter about yet another no-mark blatantly unsettling one of our best players, a feeling that is made more acute by the feeling of fragility and vulnerability at Arsenal this summer. But here’s a thought: perhaps the prohibition on tapping-up should be scrapped.

It is often said that a law that is routinely broken is a bad law. And it is clear that football’s rules against tapping-up are broken every day of the week. Gary Lineker wrote a good article back in 2006 (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/2346447/Tapping-up-isnt-illegal-so-why-have-this-stupid-rule.html), explaining how frequent tapping-up is, and how in some ways it is not only inevitable, but necessary. After all, there is an air of unreality in the idea that the would-be buying club approaches a player’s current club, and both then embark on a full-blown negotiation process, without any idea whether the player would join the new club. Similarly, a club that wants to sell may be reluctant to dilute its bargaining position by openly stating at the outset that it’s looking to offload a player.

But regardless of the rights and wrongs of the rules (and believe me, I get as wound up as anyone when I see the latest comments from Xavi, Puyol, Rossell, Ferguson, Mancini or Evra), if the rules are ignored more often than they are observed, what’s the point? And, while Arsenal may well be relative angels in this area, I’m sure our club breaches the rules too: does anyone seriously think Chamakh didn’t know he had an Arsenal contract in the bag before he began to wind down his contract at Bordeaux? And how would he have known? Because someone told him Wenger wanted him. Or more accurately, told his agent.

So, rather than perpetuate this torture of waiting for the rules to be enforced every time the vultures circle, let’s be more honest and scrap the rules against tapping-up, and just allow conversations to flow in a more grown-up manner. That way, we can just get on with hating Evra for being an odious little nerk.