Arsenal’s Cole shrugs off conflict to pursue appeal

Arsenal FC footballer Ashley Cole has cleared his lawyer, Graham Shear of Teacher Stern Selby, to appeal against his ‘tapping-up’ fine, despite Shear advising him to seek independent advice after the Premier League Commission’s guilty verdict last week.

Concerns about conflicts of interest were raised after the commission’s guilty verdict raised questions about the role of Cole’s agent Jonathan Barnett in the saga. Shear acts as a consultant and legal adviser for Barnett and his sports agents Stellar Group. Shear is also a shareholder in the group.

Shear told The Lawyer: “The potential conflict was identified at a very early stage. The advice was to take independent advice if the issue of the conflict did arise. Leading and junior counsel were consulted. The nature of the decision was so extreme that the client declined that and decided to go ahead with the appeal.”

Shear worked on the inquiry with leading sports counsel David Pannick QC of Blackstone Chambers. If the Premier League does launch an investigation into Barnett’s role, then the situation may change. He denied that his shareholding in Stellar was an issue. “I don’t have any beneficial interest and no voting entitlement,” he said.

Chelsea FC has instructed Peter Cadman of Russell-Cooke Solicitors ahead of regular adviser Hammonds, which acted on the Adrian Mutu drugs ban. Cadman has sat on similar commissions, including the one that censured Aston Villa FC manager David O’Leary for ‘tapping-up’ former Southampton striker James Beattie.

Cadman is representing Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, with criminal silk Jim Stur-man QC of 2 Bedford Row being instructed by the club.

The saga has also expanded the repertoire of Slaughter and May‘s corporate rainmaker Nigel Boardman into sports disciplinary procedures. Arsenal appointed Slaughters to undertake all of its legal work except for immigration cases after years of advising the club on corporate issues and financing.

Sir Phillip Otton QC chairs the Premier League Comm-ission. DLA Piper partner Mark Gay assumes a familiar position, prosecuting the case for the Premier League.