FIFA rejects appeals of FC Barcelona and the Spanish FA in relation to transfers of minors

Published 21 August 2014 By: John Shea

Barcelona_FC_Training_Academy_and_Grounds
On August 20 2014, FIFA’s Appeal Committee announced that the appeals lodged by FC Barcelona and the Spanish Football Association (“The RFEF”) against the sanctions imposed by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee in April 20141 for breaching FIFA’s protection of minors regulations were rejected. The decision stems from an investigation relating to ten players who were registered by FC Barcelona and participated in competitions with the club between 2009 and 2013. For more background to the case and a detailed look at the regulations, read my previous blogs in March 20132 and April 20143.

Impact of the decision

The decision means that FC Barcelona are prevented from registering any players at both national and international level until the January 2016 transfer window. The club must also pay a fine of CHF 450,000 and regularise the situation of all minor players concerned within 90 days. The RFEF must also pay a fine of CHF 500,000 and regularise their regulations and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors within one year. A copy of FIFA’s statement regarding the rejected appeals can be found here4.

 

Appeal to CAS

FC Barcelona immediately confirmed their intention to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration of Sport5 (“CAS”) and such an appeal must be lodged within 21 days6. CAS should decide FC Barcelona’s appeal before the start of the summer transfer window in July 2015 and whilst the club could apply for a stay of the sanction until the CAS appeal is determined to enable them to sign players in the January 2015 transfer window7, the club may deem this unnecessary given the number of players they have been able to sign this summer after the initial sanction was suspended pending the FIFA appeal8. It is not known whether the RFEF will also appeal the decision to CAS.

 

Barca’s argument

FC Barcelona will likely argue that the sanction of a transfer ban is disproportionate to the offence and that a lesser sanction should be imposed instead such as a warning and/or a fine (see CAS/2008/A/1485 FC Midtjylland A/S v FIFA9), particularly as FC Barcelona complies with the overall aim of ensuring that the welfare and development of young players is adequately provided for. In support, Barcelona will point to the fact that they have allowed the players in question to remain at their La Masia facility even though they are not currently permitted to play for the team. Also, as outlined in my earlier blog10, FC Barcelona believes that the protection of minors regulations should be amended and it is clear from their statement11 that they are frustrated at not being able to recruit young players from around the world despite their La Masia facility complying with the overall aim of ensuring that young players’ overall development and education is adequately protected. FIFA’s Appeal Committee obviously rejected the possibility of a further exception under the regulations being applied whereby clubs like FC Barcelona, who have invested heavily in youth development centres and who have excellent ratings in terms of player development and education, are permitted to sign players under the age of 18 regardless of their origin. However, it will be interesting to see whether CAS will be more receptive to applying further exceptions like in the case of TAS 2012/A/2862 FC Girondins De Bordeaux c. FIFA12,where the CAS extended the Article 19(2)(b) exception to apply to transfers of minors outside the European Union providing the minor is a European citizen.

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Author

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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