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.
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 makes the thing more difficult for Manchester City is that Bertelloni claims Garre left Velez while still 15 and spent time in Germany before coming to England, to make it look as if he, as an Italian was travelling within the EU. But it is argued this was just a deceptive ploy.
He further suggests that Txiki Begiristain, the City director of football, wrote to Velez two weeks before Garre’s 16th birthday, stating that the player and his parents had decided to join Manchester City. Velez stated in his evidence that he had expressly refused this request for a transfer and warned Manchester City executive that they would be in breach of Fifa rules.
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.
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.
And the long view
The latest post from our series on Henry Norris at the Arsenal
A new article covering January 1921 will be published shortly.