But now Chelsea are once again waiting to see how an enquiry by Fifa into their transfer dealings in the youth market will pan out. But this time they are not just being investigated for a handful of cases, for reports say that the transfers of over 100 foreign players under the age of 18 have been investigated.
Of these there are 25 cases that are reported to be of significant concern enough to Fifa for the investigations to continue. As part of this investigation Fifa has been looking in depth into how Chelsea register players at their academy.
Inevitably if Chelsea were found guilty and given a transfer ban they would then appeal to the Court of arbitration for sport, which itself is under investigation.
The regulations are the ones we have debated many times – that players from outside the EU who are under 18 cannot come into EU countries unless their parents have moved to the country in question for non-football reasons, or both player and club are within 50km of a national border.
This exemption for the EU and indeed for the European Economic Area is of interest. Assuming the UK leaves the EU and does not immediately join the EEA then this exemption will vanish, as far as UK clubs are concerned, and no players from outside the UK will be available to English clubs until he/she is 18 unless a parent has moved first for economic reasons. Since a major part of the reason for people voting to leave the EU was because there were too many foreigners in England (at least that is what I heard people in Peterborough say in a radio interview – they knew they were foreigners “because they were speaking foreign”) I can’t see the government immediately breaking its own new rules.
Chelsea have argued that most of the players around whom there are questions are “short-term triallists at their academy” and that there are no rules against giving players trials. But questions have been raised as to the way anyone can distinguish between a player on trial and a player who is spending time with the academy and has effectively become resident in England although is not shown as such on documents.
This of course is not an issue just related to Chelsea because Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have all been caught up in the tactics. It is said in some quarters that four other PL clubs are under investigation, and that there are many clubs outside of the UK also being investigated.
Mediapart, the French website that covers such issues, said last year that Fifa were looking to impose a ban of four windows on Chelsea, perhaps recognising that the maximum fine they can impose (500,000 Swiss francs) was trivial in the case of a club with the backing Chelsea has. Mediapart also said there were 14 players in the investigation who had been transferred illegally.
This is a reflection of a new approach by Fifa which says that where breaches of regulations are seen to have become part of general policy then the number of players involved is irrelevant – it is the adoption of policy that is the key issue.
This investigation takes us back to the oft cited case of Bertrand Traoré, now at Lyon, who signed professional terms by Chelsea on 1 January 2014, immediately after his 18th birthday. It then became clear he had played for the club in 2011 when he was 16, and it is said that this picture started the investigation. Chelsea claim this was a trial game.
Mediapart however produced documents to show that Chelsea paid £154,000 to Traoré’s mother and £13,000 to AJEB his former club, and then took the player from Burkina Faso in April 2011. It also says that Chelsea “paid for the player to go to an English school while he was underage, and incited him to be transferred to England and to be paid for it”.
This sounds very similar to incidents in the recent Liverpool case in which private school fees became part of the package in order to persuade parents to allow their son to move from one club to another. In the Liverpool case it also became clear that the club was falsifying the dates on documents – something the parents revealed.
We shall see in due course where this all goes.
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