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Who exactly controls law and order in world football? We might be about to find out.

It has taken one hell of a time to reach a decision, but it looks like a decision is almost there.  And it is a decision of importance, because it will tell us whether The City Group – the conglomeration of clubs across the world that includes Manchester City, New York City, Melbourne City, Yokohama F Marinos, Club Atlético Torque and Girona have found a way around at least one of the transfer control regulations in place.

And if they have, that could well lead to a new interpretation of the child trafficking rules in football which have caused Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid to be sanctioned.

It might even give us a clue as to how the departure of the UK from the EU is going to affect football transfers concerning young players – something that at the moment looks like it is going to be hugely affected, but on which there is at present no clarity.

Now if you are a regular reader you will know that Untold has followed the workings of CAS quite closely for a number of years.   And this seems to be a case shrouded in even more mystery than normal – and one that those of us whole follow such obscure things hope will lead to clarity – not least the clarity of what the hell has been going on in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the last eight months.

Indeed earlier in this whole process we had a reader comment that the CAS was a Micky-mouse court – something that at the time I called derisive.  But unless CAS start to explain what has been happening in this case, the CAS’ position is going to be very much diminished to say the least.

What this is all about is the Manchester City signing of Argentine teenager Benjamin Garre.  And if you think this was all being dealt with eight months ago – you are right.  Because it was July 2017 that the CAS opened the hearing in which Argentine club Velez Sarsfield claimed Manchester City broke the rules by approaching Garre when he was 15 and signed him when he was 16 years and a couple of days old.

Fifa agreed that the action of Manchester City was legal, rather than child trafficking, because Garre has an Italian passport.   But up to this point everyone has previously acted on the basis that transfers of 16 to 18 year olds cannot happen between clubs in European countries because of the anti-child trafficking laws.

Now if CAS uphold the rule that says the EU law is irrelevant and that it is the nationality of the player that is important, then for the first time football and particularly Fifa is putting itself above EU agreements which exist outside of football.  In short, Fifa rules will supersede any national and international agreements and laws.  So if Fifa says 10 year olds can be transferred then so be it, even if the laws all say no.

Matters will be complicated by the fact that when the UK leaves the EU transfers of non-EU players aged 16 will be permissible so Man City and other clubs engaged in this activity will be able to move players aged 16 to 18 from the rest of the world to their club as they wish.

But if CAS rule against Manchester City they will be banned from transfer activity for the next two transfer windows.  Man City have argued throughout that since Fifa sanctioned the deal they can’t be held responsible, and thus expected an open and shut case when it went to CAS, but the fact we are now 8 months down the line suggests something else has come up.  The trouble is, none of us CAS watcher know what.

Bernardo Bertelloni, the Velez club secretary last year summarised his club’s  case saying, “Manchester City argued that there is an exception in the Fifa rules that said that because he has a European passport he could be transferred.   But the Fifa rule does not say that, it says he can move only within the EU, between EU clubs.”

What may be hampering the Manchester City case is that in 2017 they were banned by the Premier League from signing academy players for two years for making illegal approaches for youth players registered with other clubs, and it is being said that this is being taken into account by CAS although Manchester City argue it was a separate case and cannot be cited.

The second year of that two year injunction was suspended but if Manchester City are now found guilty again, that could well be implemented to stop them transferring all players – no matter what their nationality – into Manchester City.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have been given transfer bans for breaking the child trafficking laws, and Fifa has been saying that its current one and two year bans are clearly not enough since these wealthy clubs get around the ban by buying in extra players before the ban starts.  all been subjected to transfer bans in the past few years after being found guilty of breaching rules around the signing of international players under the age of 18.#

Initially the Premier League supported Fifa in this matter but they have recently backed off and have started to allow Manchester City to sign children again without sanction.

Everything keeps coming back to the issue of why CAS has taken so long – a seemingly unprecedented amount of time – to reach a conclusion.   Their decision making is often difficult to follow so it will be interesting to see if, when giving their ruling they explain why they have taken so long this time.

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1 comment to Who exactly controls law and order in world football? We might be about to find out.

  • Mike T

    Interesting.

    CAS to be fair to them have been mainly occupied dealing with cases linked to doping and most recently the Winter Olympics
    The Real Madrid case took best part of year to conclude so still quite early days in the case detailed in this article.