In professional team sports, tapping up (British English) or tampering (American English) is an attempt to persuade a player contracted to one team to transfer to another team, without the knowledge or permission of the player's current team. This kind of approach is often made through the player's agent. It is expressly forbidden in many professional leagues, but is not illegal.
In English football
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A milder form of "tapping up" involves a manager's letting his admiration for a player at another club become known, perhaps by hinting at his interest while working as a pundit during the broadcast of a game in which the player is taking part, "he's the sort of player any manager would be very keen to sign", or by lavishing praise in programme notes when the two teams meet. There are also the "source close to the manager"-type newspaper rumours which in many case originate within the club and are intended to flag an interest while retaining plausible deniability against charges of tapping up. Most ex-players candidly admit that tapping up has gone on in football for decades. Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough later said, "we tapped more players than the Severn-Trent water board!"
Notorious examples of tapping up in the Premier League include Dwight Yorke, Jermain Defoe and Ashley Cole. In these cases, the incidents soured the relationship between the player and his original club. Cole was found guilty and fined £100,000 by the Premier League on 2 June 2005 for a meeting in a hotel in January 2005 between himself, the Chelsea manager José Mourinho, Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, and his agent Jonathan Barnett.
Chelsea were again at the centre of a controversy in 2009, when the club was found guilty of inducing Gaël Kakuta to break his contract with French team RC Lens in 2007. As punishment, they were banned by FIFA from registering new players for two transfer windows. Chelsea appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who subsequently lifted the sanctions on the club and the player after ruling that Kakuta did not have a valid contract with Lens, and therefore could not have breached it. Chelsea's transfer ban was suspended later in the same year, and was lifted in February 2010. Harry Redknapp, manager of Tottenham Hotspur at that time, has said that activity which verges upon 'tapping-up' regularly occurs in deals between Premier League clubs, and Scott Minto, a pundit for Sky Sports, said that the ban was "extremely harsh" because of the frequency of it. However, there have been other cases where clubs have received transfer window bans for tapping-up; notably, Roma over Philippe Mexès, and FC Sion over Essam El-Hadary.
The practice of tapping up is portrayed in the 1953 British film The Great Game.
On 6th June 2017, Southampton F.C. reported Liverpool F.C. to the Premier League for approaching the player Virgil van Dijk illegally. The Premier League did address that they were looking into the matter. Van Dijk was linked with 3 Premier league clubs, Chelsea F.C., Manchester City F.C. and Liverpool. News spread that Virgil wanted to move to Liverpool.
On 7th June 2017, Liverpool FC released an official club statement stating that they have given up on signing Virgil van Dijk, so the Premier League cannot investigate the matter and let "By gones be by gones". Although it has not been confirmed and for now cannot be confirmed, most statements from media believe that van Dijk was tapped up by Liverpool.
- Miller, David (2005-09-20). "Clough's cockiness and principles live on". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- "Cole's agent handed FA suspension". BBC News. 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- "Angry Chelsea hit by signings ban". BBC Sport. 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
- "Statement on Kakuta Decision". Chelsea FC. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
- "Redknapp dismisses 'tapping up' rules". The Press Association. Metro. 2009-08-18. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
- "Can't turn the tap off". Sky Sports. 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
- Binks, Richard (2009-09-03). "Chelsea's transfer ban: four other examples from football". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-03.