One issue that seems to confuse a large number of football fans is tapping up. We’re going to try and clear up what tapping up actually is, as opposed to the normal contact you’d expect in any transfer.

The basic understanding of tapping up that most fans have is that you can’t go directly to a player to try and agree a transfer without going through their club first. This makes things rather confusing when media outlets talk about contracts being agreed with players before a transfer fee is.

So how is this the case and, as Arsene Wenger accused Liverpool of tapping up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, did they?

Well, the Premier League gives the official definition as follows:

“Subject to Rule T.7, a contract player, either by himself or by any person on his behalf, shall not either directly or indirectly make any such approach as is referred to in Rule T.5 without having obtained the prior written consent of his Club.”

To put it another way, a player can only make contact with another club to try and negotiate a transfer if they have the written consent of their current club first.

As long as you have the written consent of your club, you can feel free to agree terms and so on, even if no fee has been agreed.

So the rules are pretty simple, but that doesn’t stop them being broken constantly with little or no consequences. A former football agent told the Mirror earlier this summer:

“What usually happens is that an agent goes to the club, says his player wants to leave, asks how much it will take to get him out and then relays the information to the club that wants to buy him.

“What is much more unusual is for a manager or club to become quite so directly involved without some sort of sign or indication that a player might be available.

“There’s also a lot of tapping-up which goes on between players. A rumour appears in the press, the player asks if he’s up for it, they say yes and the deal is underway.”

Arsenal fans will be more than aware of this last kind of tapping up, in particular through the Fabregas to Barcelona saga, but this never seems to be punished.

Virgil van Dijk’s proposed move to Liverpool also reportedly involved some form of tapping up, but in this case the move didn’t go through and Liverpool apologised. So why weren’t they punished?

Most likely, because the evidence was insufficient. Maybe Van Dijk spoke to his agent, who spoke to someone at Liverpool, and word got out to the media, but the only real evidence of this was the fact that it was in the media.

If they didn’t have anything else to go on, Southampton could complain to the Premier League, as they did, but would struggle to win a legal case against the Merseyside club. Which is probably the case for most instances of tapping up. The problem clearly exists, but the solution isn’t clear.

As for Liverpool and the Ox? We will probably never know. On the face of it, given Chamberlain’s insistence that he only wanted to go to Liverpool, even at the point when Arsenal were saying he wasn’t for sale, it would seem like it.

How something appears, however, and what you can prove, can often be worlds apart. If Arsenal felt like they could prove this accusation they would no doubt make a complaint to the relevant authority.

That they haven’t (at the time of writing) would indicate that they do not feel they can prove the case and are therefore trying it in the court of public opinion instead, something Liverpool themselves love to do.