Chelsea and Jose Mourinho were last night condemned for "blatantly disregarding" Premier League rules as they were hit by huge fines after being found guilty of tapping up Ashley Cole.
Cole was fined £100,000, further threatening his relationship with Arsenal and with his lawyers vowing to contest the penalty.
But while the blame for the secret meeting between Cole, Mourinho and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon was reserved for the agents involved, the harshest official criticism was reserved for Chelsea and their manager.
The three-man independent commission fined Chelsea £300,000, with a three-point deduction suspended in case of a repeat offence next season, and also docked Mourinho £200,000.
The Premier League then condemned all parties in a no-holds barred statement as they outlined their record penalties, which were designed to act as a clear deterrent to others.
* Chelsea were criticised for their "rash and dangerous course" of action in responding to an invitation from Cole's agent, Jonathan Barnett, and their 'fixer', Pini Zahavi to a meeting. This had brought "the club into disrepute in the eyes of other Premier League clubs and the public alike", the commission ruled.
* Mourinho was said to have acted in "blatant disregard" of his obligations under Premier League rules. He played a "pivotal role" in events leading up to the January 27 meeting, agreeing to join Kenyon when "he could and should have realised the implications of the secret meeting and declined to go".
* Cole was found guilty of approaching Chelsea, although he was " manipulated to a large extent by his agent" and his "responsibility for the arrangements of the meeting was not of his direct making". This "irresponsible behaviour" was the "only blot on a hitherto exemplary professional career" but the commission still found that "he attended willingly and endorsed what his agent did and said".
* Barnett and Zahavi were not able to be censured by the Premier League, who " recommended that the responsible bodies concerned should investigate their roles". The Football Association immediately confirmed they would be investigating Barnett's actions and passing any information on Israeli-registered Zahavi to Fifa.
Indeed, that FA inquiry is just one of several reasons why this case is still far from over, even though Arsenal failed in their attempts to obtain compensation from Chelsea for their actions.
Cole, who attended yesterday's verdict after flying in from England's tour to the US, is set to appeal, while Chelsea and Mourinho are likely to follow suit.
After all, the fines dwarf the Premier League's existing records - the £20,000 which Liverpool were ordered to pay for making an illegal approach to Christian Ziege, who was also fined £10,000.
And if either Chelsea or Cole lose their appeal, the matter could even end up in the courts, with the defender's legal team determined to pursue his argument of restraint of trade.
Arsenal are still hoping their full-back, who is contracted until 2007, can be persuaded to stay at Highbury and remain "fully committed to extending his contract with us."
However, Cole's solicitor, Graham Shear, said: "We are absolutely furious about both the decision and what appears to be a slightly disjointed or unrelated penalty that follows.
"We will be lodging an appeal immediately and, under instructions from Ashley, intend to pursue this to the fullest conclusion."