Stoke City have been refused permission by Championship rivals Preston North End to talk to boss Alex Neil about their managerial vacancy.
The 38-year-old signed a new three-year deal in April to end speculation linking him with West Bromwich Albion.
Preston, currently fourth in the table, said in a statement they had reported Stoke to the English Football League for an alleged illegal approach.
The struggling Potters sacked Nathan Jones as manager on Friday.
North End added that "there are now no circumstances under which Stoke City would be given permission to speak to Alex Neil".
In a further statement on Saturday, Preston said Neil had "reiterated his commitment" to the club and his current contract.
BBC Sport understands there is a compensation clause in Neil's contract that would entitle Preston to more than £3m should the Scot eventually leave Deepdale.
Stoke won just six of 38 games under Jones and, despite back-to-back victories in mid-October, last Saturday's defeat by Millwall left the Potters four points adrift of safety.
They face high-flying West Brom on Monday, with Rory Delap, Kevin Russell and Andy Quy taking charge of the first team while a new manager is sought "as swiftly as possible".
Former Hamilton Academical and Norwich City boss Neil has been with Preston since 2017, guiding them to 14th last season having at one stage been in contention for a play-off place.
The Lilywhites again find themselves in the promotion mix in 2019-20, losing just once in the league since August.
Preston will go top of the Championship if they beat Charlton Athletic on Sunday.