Barcelona transfer ban: Beyond the jargon

Barcelona transfer ban: Beyond the jargon

Barcelona has been slapped with a massive transfer ban which will prevent them from doing any business in the next two transfer windows. They can appeal and most likely will, but they don’t seem to have a leg to stand on. ANTOINETTE MULLER puts the ruling into plain-speak.

On Wednesday, Barcelona was slapped with a transfer ban for two transfer windows (summer 2014 and January 2015) by FIFA. They were also fined 450,000 Swiss francs (R5,4 million) for infringing rules on the transfer of minors. The Spanish football federation was also found to have breached regulations and fined another 500,000 Swiss francs (just under R6 million).

It all sounds fairly complicated, and that’s because it is. But here’s a breakdown for a better understanding:

What have they done wrong?s

FIFA have certain rules for the recruitment of minors (players under the age of 18). Clubs can only “officially” sign “international” players over the age of 18, unless there are special conditions and the transfer is approved by a special body known as the Players’ Status Committee. Barcelona has been found to be in breach of this rule in the case of ten minor players and to have committed several other concurrent infringements. The ban comes after a series of investigations which were instigated by the FIFA Transfer Matching System over the course of last year and subsequently by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

The Disciplinary Committee believes that protecting minors is a legal and social issue. Some transfers might seem beneficial to the career of a young player, but are often damaging instead. Therefore FIFA believes that protecting children (anybody under the age of 18) is important. Barca flouted these rules and, from 2009, recruited players under the age of 18 from across the globe. If the youths were Spanish, there would not have been a fuss, but it’s the fact that they are foreign which creates the issue. There are as many as ten players who have been signed in breach of these rules.

What Barcelona can do about it

The club can appeal the ban and will most certainly do so. They also have 90 days to “regularise the situation”. The exact meaning of that is not clear; however, it would seem that this is a suggestion for players to be sent back to their home countries. The Spanish FA, meanwhile, has 12 months to fix their regulations and enforce the rules. From first glance, it looks unlikely that the ban will be overturned since this wasn’t just a small issue involving one player; it was a systematic violation of FIFA regulations involving several players. With the RFEF (The Spanish Football Federation) being part of it, too, the situation is looking pretty dire.

What this means for the club

The appeal will stall the ban for the time-being, until a decision is reached. This could give Barcelona enough time to strengthen their squad in the next transfer window, but as it stands, they are in the soup. The ban will mean they cannot buy players during the next two windows.

Carles Puyol will be leaving the club at the end of the season and this will leave the Catalans quite fragile in their defence. They have been linked with replacements, but with the ban in place, they won’t be doing any business. The goalkeeper, Victor Valdes, will also be leaving the club at the end of the season. His contract is up at the end of the season and to add to the trouble, he is also out with injury after tearing his cruciate ligament. Barca might have to extend Valdes’ contract since, without him, they only have two recognised ‘keepers on their books: 38-year-old Pinto and Oier Olazabal.

As for the signing of Alen Halilovic, the deal should not be affected. The move for the Croatian was completed last week, but he’s only 17 years old. However, he falls within one of the exemptions of the rule (EU freedom of movement – see next point). Since the deal is complete, it should not be affected by the ban.

What this means for other clubs around the world

This is not the first time a transfer ban has been slapped on a club. In 2009, Chelsea received a similar ban when they signed Lens winger Gael Kakuta. Back then, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber fined and banned the player himself for being in breach of his contract with his old club. Chelsea appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the sanctions were lifted after it was found Kakuta did not actually have a valid contract. The two clubs also reached a settlement and the charges were dropped.

It is important to note that, even though Kakuta was technically under age, that was not the reason for the sanctions. He was exempt because the rule allows several exemptions, one of them relating to the European Union. It states: The transfer takes place within the territory of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) and the player is aged between 16 and 18. If that is the case clubs have to offer the minor education along with their contract – as well as host of other requirements. But Barcelona’s recruitment net has fished much further than the EU with a host of African and South Korean players on their books, which is where the problem lies.

Some clubs might be somewhat anxious, though. Adnan Januzaj was 16 when he signed for Manchester United in 2010, but, being Belgian, should be exempt under the EU rule. However, if such an enormous statement from FIFA, more investigations might be underway, especially into those clubs who are used to recruiting from Africa. All in all, Barca is in for a rough ride. DM

Photo: A file picture dated 01 February 2014 shows FC Barcelona players observing a minute of silence in memory of late Spanish soccer coach Luis Aragones before the Spanish Primera Division soccer match against Valencia CF at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, northeastern Spain. Barcelona were banned from signing new players for two transfer windows on 02 April 2014 by the ruling football body FIFA for violating rules relating to the transfer of minors. EPA/ANDREU DALMAU


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