Barcelona insist they’ll appeal a decision by global governing body FIFA to impose a ban on the club making any player transfers during the next two windows, in summer 2014 and January 2015.
The surprisingly stiff penalty has been handed out after the Nou Camp club were found guilty of irregularities in the signing of players under the age of 18, with FIFA’s statement revealing that Barca had infringed the regulations in no less than 10 cases since 2009.
“FC Barcelona were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of nonSpanish minors, as well as other relevant regulations,” the statement noted.
However, the Catalan club fought back by stating their innocence and asserting: “The club will lodge an appeal to FIFA and where necessary will submit the appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”
Although the identity of players involved was not divulged due to their age, FIFA also confirmed the offences had taken place over a prolonged period of time, revealing:
“The investigations concerned several minor players who were registered and participated in competitions with the club over various periods between 2009 and 2013.”
In addition to the transfer ban, Barca have also been handed a fine of ¤370,000 (Dh1.87m) as well as being given a deadline of 90 days “to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned”.
The fact that Barca have been punished does not come as a complete shock because FIFA had already banned the club from fielding South Korean youth team player Seung Woo Lee in anything other than friendly fixtures, but the severity of the penalty comes as a big surprise.
Under FIFA regulations, clubs are not allowed to sign players from outside their own country under the age of 18, with exceptions allowed for only three reasons.
Firstly that their parents had moved to the club’s country for non-footballing reasons, or secondly that they live within the same economic community (such as the European Union) and are aged over 16, or thirdly that they live within 60 kilometres of the club’s stadium.
Players such as Lee do not fall under any of those categories, and FIFA have now decided to act upon their stated commitment to protecting minors by handing out a punishment stronger than anyone had imagined.
The decision is bound to place increasing pressure on embattled Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has only been in his position for two months after replacing Sandro Rosell, whose resignation was forced by the controversy surrounding Neymar’s contract.
Although Barca are likely to launch an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, citing a previously successful appeal by Chelsea in respect of their pursuit of French teenager Gael Kakuta, the two cases are very different and the Catalan club are not expected to be successful with any appeal.
The most immediate impact upon the Spanish club’s transfer plans will be the prevention of their hopes of signing a new central defender and goalkeeper in the wake of the impending departures of veterans Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes.
Although it’s believed that a pre-contract agreement has already been made with Borussia Moenchengladbach goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen, it remains to be seen whether that deal will go ahead as it was not set to be completed until the summer.
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