By Tony Attwood
The deep rooted corruption and disregard for the rules by the three largest Spanish clubs and the Spanish Football Association has been confirmed yet again after Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid had their appeals against transfer bans rejected by Fifa, much to the embarrassment of the mainstream UK media who seek to talk the clubs up in order to retain their TV audiences.
While Fifa itself is hardly a paragon of virtue on most issues of morality, the behaviour of the three Spanish clubs in terms of flagrantly ignoring rules which are in place to protect children made even Fifa act, first with Barcelona and the Spanish FA, and now with the two major Madrid clubs.
As a result neither Real Madrid nor Atlético Madrid club can register new players during the the transfer window in January 2017 nor that in Summer 2017. The bans do not apply to clubs’ women’s teams.
However both clubs have decided to copy Barcelona and produce a ludicrous appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. The Barcelona appeal was so lacking in any substance whatsoever that it has since become a by-word for wasting court time, but such an appeal can have the effect of dragging the issue on past the January 2017 window. This would allow the clubs to buy, buy, buy all the way through that window, preparing them for the lack of signings in the summer of 2017 and then January 2018.
This was the approach adopted by Barcelona whose appeal became notorious for being little more than a statement that their academy was world famous and it was unthinkable that it had been doing anything wrong.
That case became also became memorable for the abuse hurled at any outlet such as Untold which sought to get details on the appeal, and for the large number of posts that we got saying that there was no appeal as the original case had been rejected out of hand by the CAS as nothing more than an attempt to destroy Barcelona’s credibility.
In the case of the Madrid clubs the bans were first imposed by Fifa’s disciplinary committee in January, but as is common in such cases were then lifted allowing the appeals to be heard, which meant that both clubs were allowed to carry on signing in the summer 2016 window.
The Fifa appeals committee statement is itself rather strong saying that it had confirmed “in their entirety the decisions rendered by the Fifa disciplinary committee in the respective cases relating to the protection of minors.”
There are also fines equating to £696,000 for Atlético and £225,000 on Real Madrid, although given the finances of each club these are of no significance. The clubs have been given three months to sort out their own regulations concerning the signing of players under 18 and the position of all those previously signed in breach of the basic child protection rules.
Fifa rules which ban international transfers of under-18 players except where specific protections are in place (the most common of which relate to movement within the EU and for other countries that one parent already has a job in place in the new club’s city – a job that has nothing to do with the club), close to the HQ of the team, noted particularly in these cases that the rules exist, to “protect minors who move to other countries and prevent soccer clubs from exploiting them”. It noted that trafficking of children with the promise of playing for a top club had led to many being abandoned in their new country. Often the children are afraid to go home, even if they can raise the money to do so, because they will be seen as having failed if their return to the homeland.
“Although Fifa’s approach may appear harsh in an individual case, it is only by enforcing the rules consistently and strictly that the abuses of the past can be avoided and a proper and safe development of minor players secured,” Fifa’s formal report on the appeals announced.
The Barcelona case came to light in early 2013 when Fifa blocked Barcelona from selecting children from South Korea, France, Nigeria and Cameroon for competitive matches. This followed the strengthening of Fifa transfer rules in 2010 after the first allegations emerged that clubs were involved in child trafficking with agents touring third world countries in particular promising riches to families if they could take their children away.
Many went, and most were abandoned when their talent was revealed to be not high enough for clubs, but Barcelona was implicated in the trade.
The Barcelona case did however undermine CAS’ credibility in being a fair and open court when the hearings were not only held in secret but also without any public announcement of the date nor any significant announcement of the outcome. That hearing also raised the point that if there was any defence at all to the allegations why was it not brought out at the first hearing?
In fact, from the tiny amount of information that we gained from reading the court web site it seems there was no defence or Barcelona. But the CAS acted as if it had studied the processes of the PGMO and instead of finding them to be a dire warning of how not to proceed in judicial footballing matters, took them as a blueprint.
When this story last surfaced both accused clubs said that they will be revealing to Fifa exactly what English club/s do, and demanding that they are investigated in the same way. Real general manager, José Ángel Sánchez, repeatedly said that Fifa has initiated disciplinary proceedings against clubs in the Premier League over possible breaches of transfer regulations.
One rumour that has gone around has been that it is Arsenal who they are looking at – but there has also been a strong suspicion that this is just sour grapes because English law is different from Spanish law in regard to 16 and 17 year olds.
The other rumour has been that it is Chelsea who are going to get tied up in this – not least because they have form in this. Chelsea were suspended from signing any new players until 2011 after signing Lens’ Gael Kakuta. Michel Platini met the French Secretary of State for Sports Rama Yade, who advised Lens over their pursuit of damages over Kakuta.
A Uefa statement declared: ‘As a strong advocate of a ban on the international transfer of minors, Michel Platini was pleased to find in Rama Yade both an ally and a supporter on this topic, as well as on the locally trained players rule (“home-grown players”) that is approved by the European Union.
In 2009 Fifa started to sort out the mess with a subcommittee of the Players’ Status Committee to ratify every first registration of a player. That too is helping to slow down what the Spanish clubs can do.
Thus the rule is still the same…
“International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.”
The two other exceptions are where “The transfer takes place within the territory of the European Union(EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) and the player is aged between 16 and 18….” and “The player lives no further than 50km from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered in the neighbouring association is also within 50km of that border…”
“The conditions of this article shall also apply to any player who has never previously been registered with a club and is not a national of the country in which he wishes to be registered for the first time.”
So is Fifa actually looking at transfers of youngsters into the Premier League? The PL clubs can transfer 16 and 17 year olds from other EU countries because the laws in the UK allow this until the UK finally leaves the EU. Spain finds that annoying but that is how it is. So there has been a lot of mumbling from clubs in Spain and it may be that some malicious stories have been circulated just to muddy the water.
But yes, it is possible that one or two large English clubs with a very international perspective and owners who do not really feel that EU and Fifa regulations apply to them, might have acted in as bad a way of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
- The strange case of Chelsea’s missing players, and their unusual approach to youngsters
- Arsenal are desperately short in midfield as news disappears and a new transfer is announced.
- Oh look, a newspaper has discovered the reason why England teams are rubbish. Again.
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