Initial thoughts on Real Madrid’s transfer ban being partially upheld by CAS

Published 28 December 2016 | Authored by: John Shea

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) announced on 20th December 2016[1] that Real Madrid’s appeal against FIFA’s decision to ban the club from registering players for two consecutive transfer windows and fine them 360,000 Swiss Francs for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18 was partially upheld. As a result, Real Madrid’s transfer ban was reduced to one transfer window (January 2017) and its fine was also reduced to 240,000 Swiss Francs.


By way of a reminder, FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee announced in January 2016[2] that Real Madrid, along with Atletico Madrid, 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.”  The main provision is Article 19 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”) which prohibits the international transfer and first registration of foreign players under the age of 18 except in limited circumstances. The other relevant provisions that both clubs were found to have breached included Articles 5, 9 and 19bis plus Annexes 2 and 3 of the RSTP. Please read my previous blog[3] for more background to the case and a more detailed explanation of the regulations.

The sanctions imposed by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee were suspended[4] later in January 2016 pending both clubs’ appeals to FIFA’s Appeal Committee, thus allowing them to sign players in the summer 2016 transfer window. FIFA’s Appeal Committee rejected the appeals in September 2016[5] and so both clubs appealed the decision to CAS. The Spanish FA were also sanctioned in October 2016[6] for breaches of Article 19 and other relevant provisions in relation to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions.



Despite being successful in reducing the sanctions imposed, Real Madrid confirmed that “the club regrets that the CAS lacked the courage to revoke the ruling entirely.”[7] FIFA on the other hand issued a brief statement following the decision confirming that “despite the reduction of the original sanction, FIFA takes note that CAS has confirmed the imposition of a transfer ban and a fine.”[8]

Whilst specific information regarding the nature of Real Madrid’s alleged breaches is scarce, the decision has come as a surprise because FC Barcelona’s appeal involving similar breaches was dismissed by CAS in December 2014.[9] However, the Sole Arbitrator found that not all of the rule violations alleged by FIFA against Real Madrid could be upheld hence why they were presumably “less serious and less numerous than argued by the FIFA judiciary bodies.” In contrast, the CAS panel in the FC Barcelona case found that the club was in breach of all the alleged violations involving 31 players and, therefore, their breaches were deemed to be serious. Interestingly, it has been reported in Spain[10] that another reason why the sanctions imposed against Real Madrid were reduced was because the club complied with FIFA’s request to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned within 90 days when the sanctions were first announced in January 2016 whilst FC Barcelona failed to do so.


Future Cases

It is not clear whether the full award will be published by CAS but it will be certainly very interesting and useful to know the specific facts and the sole arbitrator’s reasoning in this case, particularly given that Atletico Madrid’s appeal is due to be heard by CAS by June 2017[11]. No doubt Atletico Madrid will be hoping for a very similar outcome.



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About the Author

John Shea

John Shea

John is a solicitor at Shoosmiths LLP specialising in commercial litigation and sport law with a particular focus on regulatory and contentious issues such as contractual disputes, disciplinary proceedings and the registration and transfer of players.

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