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An explanation of Atlético and Real Madrid's transfer bans and their prospects on appeal

Thursday, 04 February 2016 By John Shea

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee sanctioned Spanish clubs Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid on 14 January 20161 for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

The Disciplinary Committee imposed a transfer ban on both clubs that prevents them from registering any players at national and international level for the next two transfer windows i.e. July 2016 and January 2017. The ban does not affect the selling of players.2

The clubs were also fined 900,000 Swiss Francs and 360,000 Swiss Francs respectively, issued a reprimand and given 90 days in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned. One presumes this means that the transfers of all such players must be approved by the sub-committee appointed by FIFA’s Players’ Status Committee and registered with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) before they can be selected again.

FIFA’s statement confirmed that the sanctions imposed followed investigations by FIFA’s Transfer Matching System and the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. The investigations related to minor players who were involved and participated in competitions with the clubs over various periods. In the case of Atlético, this was between 2007 and 2014; and for Real Madrid, between 2005 and 2014.

The sanctions came as no surprise as there were previous reports3 of the investigation by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee. Similar sanctions were also imposed on FC Barcelona in April 2014, when the FIFA Disciplinary Committee sanctioned the club with a transfer ban for two consecutive transfer windows and a fine of 450,000 Swiss Francs for similar breaches.4


Breaches committed by Atlético and Real

Both clubs were found to have breached several provisions:

concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions.5

These include Articles 5, 9, 19 and 19bis plus Annexes 2 and 3 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”).6

Article 19 of the RSTP prohibits the international transfer and first registration of foreign players under the age of 18 in order to protect the well-being of young players and their overall development in terms of academic and football education. There are, however, three exceptions to this rule under Article 19(2) of the RSTP.

The first exception applies if the player's parents move to the country in which the new club is located for reasons not linked to football.7

The second exception applies if the transfer takes place within the territory of the EU or European Economic Area and if the new club fulfils various minimum obligations in terms of football education and/or training, academic, school and/or vocational education and/or training, accommodation/living standards and mentoring.8 This exception also applies if the transfer takes place outside the European Union but involves a European citizen (see Girondins De Bordeaux c. FIFA9).

The final exception applies if both the player and the new club live within 50km of a neighbouring border, subject to a maximum distance of 100km between the player’s domicile and the club’s headquarters. The player must continue to live at home and the two associations concerned must give their explicit consent.10

Any international transfer or first registration of a foreign player under the age of 18 must be approved by a sub-committee appointed by FIFA’s Players’ Status Committee in accordance with Article 19(4) of the RSTP. This requirement was introduced in October 2009. All applications must be submitted and managed through TMS in accordance with Annexes 2 and 3 of the RSTP and in cases involving a transfer, the player can only be registered with the new association once the latter has received an International Transfer Certificate from the former association in accordance with Article 9 of the RSTP.

Clubs are responsible for providing details of the transfer, information regarding the player (nationality, date of birth, former club and former association) and the name of any intermediary involved plus any commission that intermediary has received.11 The new club must also upload copies of the transfer agreement, the player’s previous contract and new contract, and former contract and proof of the player’s identity.12 Any violations of these provisions will be sanctioned by the Disciplinary Committee in accordance with the FIFA Disciplinary Code.13

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John Shea

John Shea

John is a senior associate in the Sports Business Group at Lewis Silkin specialising in contentious, regulatory and disciplinary issues for clubs, agencies, governing bodies and athletes

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