Child trafficking allegations return to haunt Chelsea

By Tony Attwood

According to the Guardian “Chelsea have been accused, after an initial Fifa investigation, of breaking the rules on the signing of 25 foreign players under the age of 18. The number of cases could rise, with the matter now in the hands of the governing body’s disciplinary committee, which has the power to impose sanctions – chief among them a ban on transfers.”

Which is quite interesting to us because when Anne was investigating scandals for us in the early days of Untold, back in September 2009, we ran the headline ran, “FIFA and UEFA plan to ban transfers on players under 18 after Chelsea’s punishment over Gael Kakuta.”  We’ve been on the case, you might say, from the start.

It was back in September last year that Untold Arsenal’s scandals team (well, me, since you ask, since by then Anne had moved onto other things) went on what the press love to call “red alert” when we heard that Fifa had announced a new look at the way Chelsea were recruiting young players from overseas.

You may recall that across the last ten years we have tracked Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid as clubs that have fallen foul of Fifa child trafficking laws, and we covered the fact that 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.

At that time 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.  (Rama Yade is a formidable campaigner who was French Secretary of Human Rights 2007-9, Secretary of Sports 2009-10 and Permanent Delegate of France to Unesco 2010-11.  She is now President of President of the Allons Enfants!)

Fifa then announced it was in the process of setting up a subcommittee of the Players’ Status Committee that must ratify every international transfer of a player aged 18 or under.

Chelsea then reached an agreement with Lens which involved paying them £113,000.  As for the player he played six times for Chelsea went on six loans, finally got himself a new contract with Sevilla, but only played twice for them before transferring to Hebei China Fortune in the Chinese super league, and last year was on loan to Deportivo La Coruna.

Uefa then got increasingly interested in the issue of transfers of under 18s and eventually prosecuted Real Madrid over 51 illegal under 18 year old transfers.

Fast forward to January 2016 and Untold stated there were “lots of rumours circulating about a bunch of Premier League clubs being next to be picked off by Fifa”  Now it seems, two years on, we are seeing the first sign of this under the revised Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. 

These regs include section 19,1 which say, “International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18” except for “where the player’s parents move to the country in which the new club is located for reasons not linked to football.”

As we noted “international” in Fifa terms, recognises the EU as one “nation” since all EU citizens have the right to work in all EU states.   (The UK will soon be outside this and thus have even greater difficulty with the transfer of under 18s).   So in the EU the regulations applied to under 16s.

FIFA rules also say, “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.”

At that time certain clubs whom for the sake of argument we will call Real Madrid and Barcelona tried the trick of offering low grade jobs to parents at local food stores etc but Fifa ruled that if the initial contact between club and player was before the contract date for the parent, this did not get around the rules.

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 but the fundamental rule is still the same:

“International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.”

The two exceptions remain 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…”

Since then Liverpool and Manchester City have both been banned for a year from signing youngsters for their academy for other offences, and the big three Spanish clubs were banned from all transfers for child trafficking.

Now Chelsea are in the dock for the second time on child transfer issues and we’ve been trying to get details on what Chelsea has been doing with a large number of signings of youngsters, with very few indeed ever making it into the first team.  We’ve had a number of people writing to Untold saying that what Chelsea are up to is a profitable way of working because some of the players then get transferred elsewhere and is perfectly legal.

But also we’ve noted that Fifa continued to investigate further following the case of Bertrand Traoré, who played for Chelsea against Arsenal when he was .  Chelsea excused the situation saying that the game was non-competitive.

Fifa has now asked the FA to hand over information on at least 24 other players.  The Guardian reports Chelsea as saying, “Chelsea FC complies with all Fifa statutes and regulations when recruiting players.”

The story is also circulating that Chelsea will be accused of a systemic breach of the rules with the very large number of youngsters they transfer. Some sources are reporting that Fifa now argues that the one or two window suspension which the Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid got can easily be worked around with sufficient planning.  They are now looking at a much more serious penalty.

Chelsea seem to be arguing that their transfer options to secure Traoré’s registration after he became 18 were approved by the FA and Premier League, and these meant they could play him in trial games.  In 2010 the club reached a settlement with Lens, which was ratified with Cas, to avoid a two-window transfer embargo that stemmed from the signing of Gaël Kakuta.


The biggest abuse of the system so far came with Atlético Madrid who imported 183 Chinese youngsters.  They got a two window transfer ban.   Last summer alone Chelsea loaned out 32 players – an astonishingly high number including Fankaty Dabo, Bertrand Traoré, Tammy Abraham, Kasey Palmer, Todd Kane, Charlie Colkett, Bradley Collins, Ola Aina, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah, Lucas Piazon, Marco van Ginkel, Mukhtar Ali, Ike Ugbo, Kurt Zouma, Jay Dasilva, Mason Mount, Izzy Brown, Tomas Kalas, Michael Hector, Jamal Blackman, Matt Miazga, Victorien Angban, Mario Pasalic, Lewis Baker, Kenneth Omeruo, Jérémie Boga, Charlie Wakefield, Kyle Jameson, Jordan Houghton,  Nathan and Fikayo Tomori.  It is possible I have got one or two of those wrong, or also missed one or two out, but either way it is quite a list, and way beyond anything that other PL clubs have been doing although Manchester City do seem to be heading down the same route.

4 Replies to “Child trafficking allegations return to haunt Chelsea”

  1. When you read this and you read the report in the Guardian a few days ago

    you just must admit this whole industry is just grinding lives. And hte loaning out may be just the result of these kids being unable to play and evolve at Chelsea because of that. Would that not be a valid point to raise ?

    Just glad that when I search the Guardian for the words abuse + Arsenal, 90% of the stories are AW abuse(!) of referee or players like Jack using abusive language when talking about our neighbours. Interestingly, they ALL get seriously punished for it by the FA. (I do feel bad that Arsenal fans appear their with abusive language and chants.)

    At least in this regard the Arsenal organisation are clean and from what we have seen over the AW years, respecting their players, young and old (can’t say that all the old ones are respecting their ex club and manager…). Interestingly Arsenal get zero credit for that. Like people do not care. Panem et circences.

    But then, we live in a world where a US president would still get elected if he just shot some random person in the street….and got elected having said he’d be able to manhandle any woman and he’d done it on numerous occasions.

    And in our world, any bloke overstepping a line, parking 5 minutes too long, having one beer too much or being upset while on an airplane can end up in jail, but the top management of large companies can just rip-off country, governement and taxpayers, destroying lives, businesses and communities and just walk away with sh..loads of money and still be respected and start a new busines or get some plush boardroom seat.

    Look at those sex abuse cases. Have the clubs themselves ever been punished ? Nope, only individuals and I bet it were exceptions. Their responsibility as an organisation who paid, covered, and let these individuals break lives under their watch is not at all sanctionned. On the other hand if your kid does not go to school or misbehaves, you as a parent are responsible and may have to pay the consequences. And people still want to be identified with these clubs, buy their shirts, watch their games.

    Our world is one where the individual is infinitely responsible but organisations can do whatever they want, the individuals running them risking nothing yet arguing reponsibility to justify obscene financial compensation packages.

  2. For the Wenger out brigade

    Jose regarding Alexis, Alexis, my dear boy, wait, wait, wait, wait!

    “But (it’s) not done, not done at all, so in this moment Mkhitaryan’s our player, Sanchez’s an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow I want to switch off and focus what is the most important thing, which is the match.”

    Asked if the deal was dependant on Mkhitaryan moving to north London as well, Mourinho replied: “I don’t know.

    “Sometimes people think transfers involve a lot the managers in the negotiations, I think it depends on the profile of the club, on the way we establish our jobs and in my case when it goes to the table of negotiations I like to be out, I am out and I will just calmly waiting for news, no more than that.”

  3. On children moving to secure long term football careers!

    I’m not against the 16 – 18 rule, I do not think the parents should have to travel, I think an independent body shouldn’t e set up to oversee these transfers and players should be monitored both for mental, physical and educational needs, with the duty of care being the direct responsibility of the club to which the player is transferred along with the cost of safeguarding.

    13 children at home were not cared for, and although this case may seem sensational I very much doubt it is. Especially if you consider certain developing, under developed (resultant of neo-colonialism) and industrial countries.

    No Ceac, Bellerin! No thanks. We are proof that it can work and penalising clubs and young players as I have said here before is not the way forward.

    Reformation of policy is preferential, rather than removing the opportunity for harm, by removing opportunity wholesale.

    CCTV as with VAR is usually a sufficient deterrent! The housing and schooling of players should be within a framework which negates any possibility of opportunitynfor abuse via these means.

    I have also spoken at length about this with….. (angst) and she felt it was a great idea.

    School hallways must be monitored by recording loop, maintained for X time and all children should present for psychological assessment safeguarding annually with in house representatives never working singularly and answerable to a regulatory body, with the duty of care falling to the school and responsible adult assigned at any period.

    You sign in and you are handed over to that tutor as first port of call.

    Child protection is an intricate business, but aside from that I do not treat it any different to the safety of men, women, the elderly or vulnerable.

    With a significant number of those responsible for what we often perceive as atrocious victimisation of individuals also having suffered and having become abusive after being victimised. Also acknowledging some people are just born, not quite as we as a general collective would like.

    The abuse of children usually occurs at the hands of a responsible adult and can eBay difficult to spot. And this is why monitoring behaviour and removing cul de sacs or private locations is inperriitive.

    You want minors, you better have state of the art facilities and safeguarding processes which adhere to a preset definition.

  4. football is just a new way of the old slavery market. Only difference the slaves have a miserable existence as the football players are as rich as can be. Except for the young kids that are promised heavenly rewards and then end up being in poverty….

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