FIFA decide not to punish Valencia CF and Villarreal CF for the international transfer of minors
Published 21 June 2019 By: Alfonso León Lleó
On the 4 June, FIFA informed both Valencia and Villarreal that the investigation procedure initiated in 2015 by the FIFA Transfer Matching Integrity and Compliance Department (the body responsible for ensuring compliance with the provisions and the proper use of the FIFA TMS) in relation to the possible violation of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (hereinafter the Regulations) was formally closed.
The investigation concerned the possible breach of Article 108 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code relating to the rules on the registration of foreign minor players. This followed an alleged breach of the following articles of the Regulations:
Article 5.1: Obligation to register with the competent association all players participating in organised football.
Article 9.1: Obligation to request the International Transfer Certificate (ITC) as a prerequisite for the registration of players from associations other than that of the Club that wishes to register the player.
Article 19: Prohibition of international transfers of minor players, except in the cases provided for in the second paragraph.
Article 19.3: Prohibition to register minor players for the first time, in the cases provided for in the second paragraph.
Article 19.4: in conjunction with Annexes 2 and 3: Procedural rules for the registration of minor players.
Article 19bis: Obligation to inform the competent federation about the presence of minor players in academies legally, de facto or financially linked to the club.
In its written pleadings initiating the investigation, FIFA asked both clubs to disclose certain information relating to minors registered with them and urged the clubs to explain the existence or not of any relationship (including legal or financial) with different grassroots football clubs from the Valencian Region of Spain.
In response to FIFA's request, both the clubs submitted on a case-by-case basis the justification for each of the transfers and the reason for their legality.
Within these transfers, FIFA included a large number of national players from the People's Republic of China. This was because both Valencia and Villarreal had signed an agreement with Wanda Group, offering participants a global program of social and personal education as well as sports training. The club’s explanation of the nature of the program indicated that there was no breach of the Regulations with respect to this group of players, since at no time were they part of the clubs nor they were registered with them. Rather, they were in Spain temporarily for the sole purpose of education and sports training.
With respect to the rest of the minors, and unlike the well-known cases of Fútbol Club Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid, Anderlecht and Chelsea (whose sanction has been appealed to CAS), the evidence submitted by the clubs established satisfactorily:
That FIFA Players' Status Subcommittee previously authorised the registration of minor players who were under the provisions listed in Article 19.2 of the Regulations.
That the first registration of minor players in Spain took place neither with Valencia nor with Villarreal, but with other national clubs who had previously registered the minors. Therefore, Article 19 of the Regulations cannot have been infringed.
That the age of minor players at time they were registered with clubs did not require authorisation from the FIFA Players' Status Subcommittee, as FIFA claimed on a number of occasions.
There was neither factual nor legal nor financial relations with any of the clubs in respect of which FIFA requested information.
That both the substantive rules relating to the protection of minors’ interest and the procedural rules laid down in the Regulations for applying for and obtaining authorisation for registration from the competent bodies had been complied with.
In light of this, FIFA Transfer Matching Integrity and Compliance Department acknowledged that neither of the clubs had infringed the Regulations (or its guidelines), and therefore that proceedings would not be opened under Article 108 of the Disciplinary Code.
The authors, Ruiz-Huerta & Crespo Sports Lawyers, represented the clubs during the investigation.
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