By Tony Attwood
On 30 December 2014 Barcelona lost their third and final appeal against Fifa’s ruling that the running of their “world famous” academy was illegal under Fifa rules. Interestingly, the Spain FA, which was also found guilty in a related case, did not bother to appeal at all.
Now Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid appear to be on the verge of being charged with the same crimes and given similar punishments. And just as those clubs are protesting their innocence so Barcelona has come up with a way around the ban on the long-serving model for a children’s hot-house.
The current stories started last year as the Madrid clubs came under investigation and the Committee for Arbitration in Sport finally ruled against Barcelona and upheld its one year ban on transfers. Just three months later – in March 2015 – Barcelona announced their idea for having Barcelona academies in other countries. They suggested one in Denmark as a starter
Thankfully the Danish FA has said no. The academy, which was planned to be near Copenhagen is not going to happen.
The Danish Football Assn (DBU) said that the academy for six to 16 year olds was not a good idea for Denmark, for the reason that “the plans conflict with the Danish regulations for the protection of children”. These aim to safeguard children’s well-being, happiness and security – something that the Barcelona model ignored.
Under the old Barcelona approach children were allowed to come and sign up for Barcelona irrespective of whether they were EU citizens or not, and whether (if they were) one of their parents already had a job within the area. (The latter requirement of a job before the child is given a trial is important as otherwise the club might find a job for the parent only to sack him/her if the child fails to make the grade, thus leaving parent and child stranded).
It is a rejection that sends a clear message to Barcelona and the rest of football. You don’t allow an organisation that has been found guilty of allowing agents of ill-repute to bring children from Africa into Europe and then abandon them if there is no contract, to open up another of their ill-famed centres, in your own back yard.
Of course the DBU was more diplomatic saying that it was concerned about six year olds being in an elite training environment – but then came the sting in the tail as the rejection slip added “especially where the child was going to be rejected.”
There is also the concern that the Danish clubs would lose out to Barcelona, and that children who might have gone to their local club would move to Barcelona’s academy instead.
What’s more the move, if allowed, would set a precedent for big clubs from other countries to move in on up-and-coming youngsters. “We must safeguard the development of talent in Danish football,” a statement from the DBU said.
Since Barcelona ran out of appeals against their year long transfer ban, they have been conducting a media campaign, in which newspapers which should have known better have been “persuaded” to run in depth articles and interviews in relation to Barcelona which suggest that something was wrong with the legal and factual approach that led to their ban.
One such that appeared in Britain, was in the Independent which ran an entire press release suggesting that the findings of Fifa and the CAS were contrary to European law, without in any way saying why or how. The articles are utterly unbalanced and contained no proper consideration of the ins and outs of the issue. Even wild claims about the amount of tax Barcelona pays in Spain were allowed to stand without comment or investigation.
So it’s another day, another Barcelona ploy, another event affecting the long term development of football in Europe largely unreported in the media in the UK who still remorselessly worship at the shrine of the Barcelona press release. It was ever thus.
But that’s not all the news on the Spanish corruption front. Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have been under investigation for some time for similar offences to those proven to have been committed by Barcelona.
What is interesting is that the language Atlético Madrid and Real Mad have used to deny anything and everything is very very similar to that used by Barcelona. The story in Spain is that Fifa will hand out the same punishments as with Barcelona – primarily a one year ban on transfers as a result of widespread of abuse of the rules about the transfer of under 18 year olds.
The clue that Atlético will be found guilty is indeed in their recent statements in which they have said that “all the licenses were processed after approval from the Madrid soccer federation and the Spanish soccer federation.”
The Spanish FA was found guilty last time around along with Barcelona and was clearly handing out the wrong guidance and advice. In the light of that the Madrid defence seems weak in the extreme.
In January Fifa, having seen off Barcelona’s repeated ludicrous appeals (which consisted of little more than the statement that they were Barcelona and their academy was world famous, and besides the Spanish FA had said everythings was ok, demanded detailed information on over 50 of the under 18s singed by the club.
Real Mad used phraseology such as “absolutely false” and “malicious” to describe the allegations – which is pretty much what Barcelona said. Such language also shows a sign of desperation. Fifa, in these cases, brings the allegations, and then hears the complaint and then reaches a decision and then passes down judgement. Accusing your judge of malicious falsehood before things start doesn’t really endear one to the court.
If Real Mad and their neighbours are banned for a year from conducting transfers as Barcelona were, they will probably be able to string out the appeals up to the CAS appeal until the summer transfer window opens, which means that they would then be unable to sign anyone in 2016 – by which time Barcelona will be back in the market.