Barcelona announces plan to appeal FIFA’s year-long transfer ban
Barcelona have announced they will appeal against the year-long transfer ban imposed on them by FIFA for breaching the governing body’s rules on the transfer of players aged under 18.
The Spanish champions were sanctioned on Wednesday by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for breaking the rules in the case of 10 under-18 players and been punished with a transfer embargo for two transfer windows and a fine of 450,000 Swiss francs (€£305,000). Barca confirmed in a statement on Wednesday evening they would be appealing against the ban.
The statement read: "The club will lodge an appeal to FIFA and where necessary will submit the appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)."
In the lengthy statement, which included 14 points in response to FIFA’s ruling as the basis for their appeal, the Spanish champions added: "FCB will also demand the relevant interim measures needed to preserve the club’s rights, amongst which are those allowing it to sign players in transfer windows."
Due to appeals rules, Barca should be able to bring in players this summer, including the arrivals of Croatian Alen Halilovic, who turns 18 in June, and Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has been heavily linked with a move to the Nou Camp. The Catalan club’s appeal to FIFA is likely to be heard before the end of April, and if they then go to CAS those court proceedings would not likely take place until August, and the transfer embargo would be suspended until the final decision.
FIFA also fined the Spanish FA 500,000 Swiss francs (€£340,000) for rule breaches in terms of registering the players. The sanctions have highlighted the practices of clubs scouring the world for young talent and taking children from their home countries in defiance of FIFA’s rules. Barca currently have a trio of youth players from South Korea, including much sought-after 15-year-old striker Lee Seung Woo, plus other players from Africa.
FIFA only allows international youth transfers when one of three situations apply: the player’s parents have moved country for their own, non-related reasons; the move takes place within the European Union if a player is aged between 16 and 18; or the player’s home is less than 50 kilometers from the national border being crossed. The sanctions follow investigations conducted by FIFA’s transfer matching system officials into under-18 players who were registered and participated in competitions with the club between 2009 and 2013.
FIFA said in a statement: ”FC Barcelona has been found to be in breach of article 19 of the regulations in the case of 10 minor players and to have committed several other concurrent infringements in the context of other players. The disciplinary committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of 450,000 Swiss francs."
The statement added: ”Additionally, the club was granted a period of 90 days in which to regularize the situation of all minor players concerned. The committee highlighted that while international transfers might, in specific cases, be favorable to a young player’s sporting career, they are very likely to be contrary to the best interests of the player as a minor.
”Young football players are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in a foreign country without the proper controls. This particular fact makes the protection of minors in football by the sport’s governing bodies, especially by FIFA, even more important.”
Barca defended their actions in the 14-point statement, highlighting what the club offers to young players and their families and how the aim of their La Masia youth academy is to develop "rounded people ahead of creating sportspeople."
Barca also insisted they had fulfilled all civil legislation, and that all the underage players in their training centers are legal residents of the country
The statement read: "The regulations which have allegedly been infringed are aimed at protecting underage players from clubs which sign youngsters without guaranteeing the educational, care and training rights – precisely those which FCB do develop under the Masia model. The Masia model incorporates academic training, providing residence and pastoral care, as well as health care specifically for underage needs and sports development.
"FCB puts creating rounded people ahead of creating sportspeople, something which has not been taken into consideration by FIFA, which has applied sanctions criteria that ignores the nature of our training program."
Barca also said that since the FIFA investigation began, the federation licenses of the players involved had been withdrawn and that they had not played in any further official games for the club. The Primera Division outfit revealed they had also been petitioning FIFA to change their rules, adding: "For some time now and in various contexts, FCB has laid before FIFA the need to revise the regulations which are aimed at protecting underage players in order to make such protection more effective."
The statement added: "In Catalonia alone it is estimated that there are 15,000 underage players born outside of Spain and registered with their federation who, according to the criteria used in this case by FIFA, would have to be considered to be in a similarly unauthorized state."