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Barce condemned for crimes against under 18s

By Tony Attwood

There once was a time when Barcelona were seen as a club with some positive moral basis.  They represented the aspirations of a nation within a nation.  They refused to sell the front of their shirt to anyone.  The shirt, they said, was the symbol of their people.  The shirt was sacred.

Then came the news that they had run out of money, after years of profligacy.  One month they couldn’t pay their mega stars.   The boss talked plaintively about not using the colour option on the photocopier.   There were stories, still on going, about their star player being tried for tax fraud.   The shirt was sold to, of all people Qatar, a state associated with slave labour and the funding of  the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades – the military arm of Hammas.   The country accused by Germany’s development aid minister, Gerd Mueller, of financing the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

Can a fall from grace ever have been swifter?

Then, in April 2014 Fifa imposed a transfer ban on the club, and sanctioned the Spanish FA for flagrantly and repeatedly breaking the regulations concerning the signing of international players under the age of 18.

With an arrogance not seen since Man City took on Uefa in relation to its over-spending vis a vis FFP regulations, Barcelona said it was all a mistake, and noted that they would be cleared on appeal.  At once Fifa bowed and the ban was suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.

Many of us thought that Barcelona were successfully buying off Fifa, as they went on a mega buying spree of their own, spending over £115m ending with the purchase of Vermaelen.  With losses being paid off by Qatar (who of course also own PSG) and no thought of FFP they just spent and spent, certain that they could carry on spending as they would buy off Fifa too.  Initially they were sure they could even get their vampire back earlier, as he appealed his sentence.

But surprisingly Fifa stood tall over biting on the pitch and apart from minor adjustments upheld the suspension.  Barcelona tried to make light of it, by parading the outcast in a friendly, but no one was really impressed.

And then amazingly Fifa said, “The Fifa appeal committee has decided to reject the appeals lodged by Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol and to confirm in their entirety the decisions rendered by the Fifa disciplinary committee in the respective cases relating to the protection of minors.”

Now that is extraordinary.  When was the last time Fifa confirmed one of its own rulings in entirety?  Normally they plea bargain and get the sanctions reduced to a gnat’s whisker.  Not this time.

Desperate beyond measure Barcelona has said that they will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  That means that they can now sign, sign, sign as they spend spend spend, but there are signs that agents who are a fraction more savvy than their players are looking askance at Barcelona.  Go to a club that maybe can’t sign anyone in January or next summer apart from Spanish players?  And know that most Spanish clubs won’t sell to Barcelona… Hmmm.

Maybe before – but now with the rise of Atletico Madrid, maybe not.  Fifa added just for good measure, “FC Barcelona has also been ordered to pay a fine of CHF 450,000 (£295,000) and been given a period of 90 days from today in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned.”

These players played for the club between 2009 and 2013.  The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) also appealed over the same accusations.  Fifa said, “The RFEF has been ordered to pay a fine of CHF 500,000 (£330,000) and granted a period of one year in which to regularise their regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football.”  10 children are involved.

So what are these regulations?   In world football, players aged under 18 are considered children, and can only move to a club outside their national country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons (ie business or to be with relatives already there), or if they are from another EU nation and aged between 16 and 18.  The aim is to stop irresponsible agents picking up children in Africa bringing them to Europe with the promise of wealth and fame and then dumping them if no club picks the player up.

In what must be just about the most pompous notice of appeal in the history of football Barce said, “FC Barcelona may not in any way share a resolution that is an affront to the spirit of our Masia, a world renowned example of academic, human and sporting education.”

So what defence can there be?  That none of this took place?  That the players were not under age?  That Barcelona didn’t know the players were under age?  That they believed they had clearance?  That they thought the player’s uncle was already working in Spain as a waiter? Probably one or more of these.

But matters are mounting up for Barce.  Earlier this year, they were accused by the Spanish tax authorities of tax evasion relating to the £50m purchase of Brazil forward Neymar.   Laughably Barcelona then made a “voluntary contribution” of more than £11m in taxes and said that the affair was closed.  The tax authorities are still pursuing them.

And then there is the messy problem of Messi.

Last month it was confirmed that the courts will continue with the case, thus overturning the rather curious wishes of the public prosecutor who argued in June that Messi’s father Jorge was responsible for the finances of Messi the player.

The court in Barcelona rule that that Lionel Messi probably knew about the massive web of empty shell companies sprinkled around the UK, Switzerland, Uruguay and Belize, allegedly used to evade taxes due on income from image rights.  The club’s president Sandro Rosell got the hell out of the way after he was accused of misappropriating funds in the deal and is no longer part of the club.

Messi earns $50 million a year, and his alleged tax avoidance resulted in Forbes announcing that “Taxes have become a worldwide spectator sport ever since it turned out that Swiss bank secrecy didn’t quite mean what we all thought it meant.  At least not since Credit Suisse paid a $2.6 Billion Fine in the US.

“A key element in Messi’s case seems to be the clandestine nature of the tiered arrangement. The deal was structured to keep his name hidden. The Spanish prosecutor alleges that money was routed through U.K. and Swiss companies and then to companies in Uruguay and Belize. The reason? To make it opaque….”

So Messi, the President, the club, the transfers, the vampire, Qatar…  Welcome to The New Barcelona.

———

The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

26 comments to Barce condemned for crimes against under 18s

  • Abdul

    This article is well written but has flaws, it is a big allegations to make that the State of Qatar are sponsoring Hamas and ISIS.I am not Qatri nor nor do I support Hamas or Isis, what they do is completely wrong. But to put blame upon the Qatri nation without any evidence is ridiculous. I have been reading this site for years but today we entered into the realm of politics not football. Was it not the Americans that released the ISIS leader, al Baghdadi in 2003? When the Arab world was telling them not to !

    My advice is leave the political commentary to someone else and focus on Arsenal, Victoria Corcodia Crescit

  • Abdul – I am grateful to you for reading the site for a long time – and for the moderate tones you have adopted.

    You will have seen that Untold has most regularly engaged in political, economic and media matters when they have a relationship to football. Indeed the article on Qatar a few weeks ago was one such, and it is linked from this article.

    It has been a fundamental of my view of Untold since I founded it that football does not exist in isolation from the rest of the world. To argue that it can be seen in isolation is misleading, and would mean we should not consider Man City’s finances, for example.

    Inevitably my little piece has brought some extreme abuse (most certainly not from you of course), and comments to the effect that I should balance the piece by focussing on the plight of Palestine, the reality of the occupied territories etc. I don’t publish the abuse and threatening posts, but my answer to them all is I publish articles that relate to football from an Arsenal perspective. Although no one has mentioned it today, I could write about REsolution 242 – and I would if it had anything to do with football. But I am not sure it has a relevance. Qatar however is financing football and will host the world cup. What it does with its money is therefore of interest, I believe.

    Qatar’s financing of PSG and Barcelona is a football related matter, so I write about it, as much as I write about Henry Norris’ financing of Arsenal in 1910 and 1913, and his involved in the first world war as a recruiting officer. It is relevant to Arsenal because he financed Arsenal. Just as Qatar is relevant to football.

  • bjtgooner

    Two of the most important requirements for a successful business are honesty and integrity. I have often been disappointed in the dishonest way in which some business and even some professions are run. Usually (not always) the problem is at the top.

    With Barca we have seen the sickening petulant cheating way the players have behaved on the pitch – unbecoming to a school team never mind a supposed brand leader. Obviously such behavior is accepted by the manager & owner – winning, by any means, even cheating, is more important than honesty – to them.

    Now, to complement the cheating on the pitch, we have obvious unscrupulous financial manipulation and dishonesty – no doubt they will wriggle long and hard to protest innocence – but it would be good if the Barca pack of cards disintegrated.

  • Stoney

    I am simply astonished that people would ask you to balance out a football piece by focusing on the Palestinian plight, as if any mention of any arabic country involved in terrorism is treason. That more than ever makes me realize Europe as I once knew it is over.

  • Stoney

    I hope that you do post my comment. Discussion should live in something other than a tiny prism of someone’s say-so.

  • nicky

    Tony,
    While I respect your statement that Barcelona was once considered to be a club with some positive moral basis, I certainly don’t remember it. Along with Real Madrid the two clubs wielded more power and influence than the Spanish Government itself….and in a typical ruthless, flagrant manner.
    Regardless of its parlous finances, Barcelona will now spend its oil-tainted pieces of silver in order to sign any talent it needs to dominate its homeland’s football.
    The recent early appearance on the field of play, in a Barcelona shirt, of the apparently banned Suarez, is an absolute disgrace and merely emphasises the sinister power of this club.

  • Stoney – I don’t like stopping discussion, and those of us who do moderate this site at different times in the day debate this long and hard. Indeed we’ve debated the issue openly at times, trying to give ourselves guidelines that those of us running the site are ok with, and which satisfy the majority of our regular readers. By and large for something to be cut it has to be utterly irrelevant, or abusive or threatening. Today I’ve cut comments that are all of those – including one hoping that an Arsenal player would get seriously injured. Running this and other blogs has been quite an education!

  • Pat

    I find it hard to take the moral high ground over Qatar when we’ve got Emirates splashed all over our kit. Is there a big difference?

  • deejay

    ‘ Regardless of its parlous finances, Barcelona will now spend its oil-tainted pieces of silver in order to sign any talent it needs to dominate its homeland’s football… ”

    this also applies to mansh*tty who are owned by abu dhabi and chavski who are owned by the original oily financial doper… neither of whom were any good until they started buying trophies and tripled their number of “supporters” overnight.

  • oldgroover

    Pat

    Around 450 miles.

  • Hisham Hashim

    Where can we find articles relating to the children footballers that became the subject matter of the case against Barca? Where are they now? It is alright if the kids are from Spain itself but not so if they are from Africa or South America?

    I ask as Arsenal has its own Academy and are building talents from within, but some of these kids are not from North London, if you get my drift. How is Hale End different from La Masia?

  • Linz

    Hisham,it is hypocrisy of the highest order,it is ok for Arsenal to sign children from Barcas Academy by offering them huge financial incentives (kids can’t sign a contract until 18 in Spain) but Barca are breaking the rules by paying the parents of kids from South America and Africa to join them. Its just semantics really;in Portugal “superagents” sign up ,and then discard, young footballers with monotonous regularity, and PL Academies are also full of European Children. The new “Etiad” campus will be full of Europeans.I don’t think Arsenal,City,Liverpool,Spurs and Chelsea have any reason to get on their high horse on this particular issue..It would be interesting to find out how many of these European kids make it in this country.Personally I believe that the movement of under 18s outside their country of origin should be outlawed but that’s just me. Of course Barca being allowed to continue to sign players whilst their appeal is heard is another issue;how come UEFA can deal with Legias appeal within days but it has taken 6 months (I believe) to hear Barcas? VERY VERY dodgy,whats the point of a transfer ban if you give them the time to sign two years worth of transfers before the ban starts?

  • Micheal Ram

    To assume the kingdom of Arabs not to know about the financial details of particular terrorists group is total ignorance. Like a father who do not want to take responsibility of his misbehaving under-age children. The US does play political ploys and games to not only protects the country but also pockets the very people trusted to protect the country. All nations do it. Their people are aware of it. But the term responsibility and democracy means to intervene and stop such wrongdoings, not such sit there and accept the way things are. I’m drawn to Untold for this very purpose. To stop evil to flourish. Everything is our business if we believe we are the citizen of the world. As all human is created equal, with freedom and with integrity. Only hypocrites expect such equal treatments and act otherwise.

  • king xavi

    What a ridiculous article.clubs like arsenal,and livapuls the real poachers,offering big money contracts to minor as such.barca are only helping these children,giving them a future.and lol at you using Messi’s case to attack barca.you should write articles concerning arsenal,a team whose dream is to finish fourth every year,lololol…

  • King Xavi – you really ought to get a grip of the context of the blog you are responding to before you start

  • Chapman's Ghost

    I’m not sure if we are perched high on the summit of the moral mountain as, Pat points out, we have Emirates emblazoned all over our players’ chests. I suppose if football wasn’t a magnet for money there’d be a lot less moral turpitude.

  • Will

    I will leave the political musings to another day but I do think there needs to be a way os stopping these oil rich magnates from buying football. I have no problem with spending big, if that money was made by the club from football but when you allow rich men to throw vast sums into the game, pretty much taking away any idea of a sporting chance.

  • nicky

    @Chapman’s Ghost,
    I’ve said for many years that “advertising” (in its broadest term) is directly responsible for much of the ills in professional football today.
    (I will conveniently leave out the effect on other sports).
    As soon as commercial television arrived (remember the phrase “a licence to print money”?) advertising became the natural provider of finance. A football shirt without a logo became a curiosity, every top player had a sponsored boot manufacturer and the snowball gathered pace and riches. And that’s the tip of the iceberg!
    Today, with global satellite TV, we have transfer fees and wages spiralling completely out of
    control

  • nicky

    directly due to the income from world-wide advertising. Ticket prices continue to rise to add to the “bubble” which one day will surely burst.

  • Gfromgirton

    Great work once again.

  • Yassin

    “The shirt was sold to, of all people Qatar, a state associated with slave labour and the funding of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades – the military arm of Hammas.”

    Talking about Qatar is not an issue with me, as its as you said earlier related to football, although I would prefer to use Qatar Government or something as not all Qatari’s are what you believe they are.

    On another note, you went into another issue which you seem to have a side of, the palestine israel conflict. And here since you dont mind me going to politics on your site (please inform me otherwise) I would love to point to some issues which you may/may not know.

    1- Am a Palestenian, I never been to my country, I cant have any other nationalite from this region. And most of our rights we are deprived of, from Qatar and other arabic countries.

    2- I cant go to Qatar no matter what thr reason is, work? Visit? Whatever its impossible. Just because am a palestenian.

    3- Dont know what you were informed, and how?but it seems the same media that says Arsenal are on the blink of disasters. But the Qatar govn. never funded any Hamas/Qassam, I hoped they did but they didnt.

    4- If some people came to UK, threw you out, and lived instead of you, and then when you started fighting back ( its your right then by UN laws). Everyone calls you a terrorist.

    5- How many Israeli kids have been killed relative to Gazza kids?

    6- Please go watch on You tube and other social media about this war, and leave those lying media around on TVs and newspaper. You may then see the real picture of who is thw terrorist.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    Yassin has got a few points:
    -Most Arab leaders are despots, corrupt, or both, with shades from light grey to black.
    -Palestinians have de-humanized because of poor decisions by some of their leaders.
    -Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder; state terrorism is flourishing everywhere.
    Now some interesting facts:
    -Hamas was helped at its inception by the entity occupying Palestine to undermine Fatah.
    -Moslim integrism has been encouraged by backstabbers to make the Palestinian cause look unworthy, because a secular coherent leadership is feared by the Palestinians’ enemies.
    -The few secular leaders have been eliminated, some killed physically; George Habash, the communist physician who led one of the popular movements, has died of cancer a while ago.
    -The widely touted Hanan Ashrawi is an… Anglican (!!!) with little following if at all.
    -Fatah, the movement supported by Qatar and other Gulf potentates, is originally rooted in traditional Moslim Brotherhood rhetoric, the original allegiance of Yasser Arafat. In addition, Fatah stands for “Haraket Tahrir Falasteen” and it is the largest PLO group.
    In summary:
    -Palestinians have no state, no rights, no proper leadership, and no hope.
    -The occupying entity utilizes the Western media to brainwash Westerners.
    -Winston Churchill once said something like: If there are no Russians, there is no peace, if there are no Italians, there is no faith, if there are no Americans, there is no prosperity, if there are no Germans, there is no might, if there are no Frenchies, there is no elegance, if there are no Anglos, there is no tradition, ……. and if there are no Arabs, there is no treason. The Palestinians have been the victim of treason at the hand of greedy fellow Arabs (leaders, of course, not the people).
    Sorry for the long post, but for a good Arab perspective, I recommend the AngryArab blog.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    In retrospect, it looks like Fabregas was trying to leave last summer, his significant other being an adopted Londoner of Lebanese origin. I know he asked to leave, and the Boss was interested, but this was prior to Ozil happening. When you re-read some of the AW answers to questions about Fabregas last year, it is clear. This summer, it was obvious that the Boss had other priorities, but despite Jose’s ramblings, Fabregas wanted to come home; Chelsea happened because he had to go to his second choice; choice #3 would have been Spurs, if we believe that the lady in charge wanted Cesc to be in London, and nowhere else but London.

  • menace

    All that speil does not explain this football fact. Geographically how does Israel fit into European Football? How long before Canada wants to join UEFA?
    How long before Lebanon wants to join UEFA?

    My view is that some aspects of ‘European’ has become Geographically corrupt.

  • Yassin

    @Ray from Norfolk,

    Thank you for the reply, and you seem to have a lot of knowledge in this aspects I am impressed.

    What I was pointing at is not if Hamas ir Fatah are right or wrong, as I agree with almost all points you mentioned. Its just this blaming people who defend their own rights/country to be called Terrorist cause of someone Bias towards the other party/side of conflict.

    In the end I come here for Arsenal and not anything else. That is why I prefer if Tony keeps out of this politics, still this is his blog, and he has the right to do whatever he wants.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    Yassin,
    Being pro-Palestinian-people and having Palestinian cousins (the ubiquitous Middle-Eastern Khouri family) and also being a libertarian, I advise you to follow the AngryArab blog run by As’ad Abu-Khalil. The blog exposes Arab traitors and their backers; it also has a strong pro-Palestinian-people stance.