FIFA has handed Barcelona a ban spanning two transfer windows for irregularities involving transfers of youth players. The club and the Spanish FA have been fined for their actions and the punishment will be imposed once the appeals have been exhausted. The Spanish club have 90 days to lodge an appeal to the game’s governing body.
Barcelona’s now famous motto reads ‘Més que un club‘, meaning more than a club. But off late the motto has been used as a sarcastic reference by the footballing world as the club hurtles itself from one scandal to another. Los Blaugranas had just about recovered from the damaging Neymar transfer saga when news erupted that FIFA has slapped a one year transfer ban for breaking FIFA regulations in involving ten U-18 players. The latest scandal is a long line of embarrassing gaffes that has damaged the club which prides itself on its clean image and unblemished dealings.
The irony in the latest ban is that Barca’s dealings with youth players have been questioned, this for a club that boasts of the world famous La Masia and renowned for its work with kids coming from all corners of the world. In the meantime the club has been fined 450,000 Swiss Francs ($ 504,000) with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – also accused of commuting the same breach – and will have to pay a fine of 500,000 Swiss Francs ($ 560,000).
FIFA’s statement stated out that the FA has to “regularise its regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football” within a year.
Some of the youth players in questions – Koreans Lee Seung-woo, Paik Seung-ho and Jang Gyeol-hee, the French youngster Theo Chendri, the Nigerian Bobby Adekanye and the Cameroonian Patrice Sousia – train with the club but have been barred from playing competitively by FIFA mainly because of above mentioned sanctions. The ten players were investigated over a 12-month period and FIFA’s investigative team concluded that they were found to be in breach of Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.
FIFA’s rules state that international transfers are only permissible if the player in question is above the age of 18 unless but there are three exceptions to the rule
• U-18’s can move to a club in a foreign country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons
• If the player in question is from within the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area and aged 16-18.
• If the player in question lives within 100 kms of the club.
Barca’s case is not an isolated one as Chelsea were also embroiled in a similar FIFA ruling in the year 2012. The signing of Gaël Kakuta from Lens was investigated and the London club were found guilty of persuading the Frenchman to break his contract but the ban was overturned after the London club decided to pay off the French club instead.
The club’s fans have already voiced their discontent with the current administration led by the beleaguered Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has only ascended to the post after his predecessor Sandro Rosell resigned following the Neymar transfer scandal. Instead of diffusing the situation and looking for the best legal minds to extract the club from this sensitive situation, Bartomeu’s statements hinted at ‘foul play’ involving other clubs in Spain who want to damage Barca.
“For a while now someone wants to damage Barcelona,” Bartomeu said. “We are investigating where the anonymous complaint (FIFA was notified by a tip from within Spain) came from. Barça have done nothing wrong, we just looked for talent. I cannot say the suspicions point to one club or another.”
The 51-year-old also stated that, “The La Masia system is something not to be touched. It won’t be changed and we will fight this unjust attack on a model which has been a huge success over the last three decades.”
The transfer ban comes at the worst possible time for the club as a goal-keeper and a center-back were considered priorities in the upcoming transfer market. Current club captain Carles Puyol and goalie Victor Valdes have already stated that this season will be their last but should the current sanctions prevail the club might’ve to move heaven and earth to make sure they manage to get one more year out of the club’s stalwarts. Another possibility is for the club to finally look inwards and graduate youngsters from the Barca-B team in order to fill the deficiencies in an already stretched side. The sanctions have also thrown into doubt the signings of Croatian talent Alen Halilović from Dinamo Zagreb and Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, both of whom had agreed terms with the Spanish champions.
Once again the onus falls on Barca’s players who amidst all this have managed to sustain their challenges in three different fronts but the off-field distractions will surely catch up if things are allowed to deteriorate any further.