Five Premier League clubs facing transfer bans
Fifa investigating possible violations of rules on signing of foreign players under 18
Chelsea are one of the five Premier League clubs under investigation by Fifa. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Fifa is investigating five Premier League clubs over possible violations of rules on the signing of foreign players under the age of 18 with the quintet risking transfer bans if found guilty by the governing body’s disciplinary committee.
Chelsea are one of those clubs, as reported by the Guardian in January, and the French investigative website Mediapart reported on Wednesday that Fifa’s Integrity and Compliance unit would seek to impose a two-year transfer ban to stretch across four windows, and a fine of 500,000 Swiss francs. Mediapart is one of the outlets publishing documents obtained by Football Leaks.
Chelsea released a short statement on Wednesday night saying they had “fully cooperated with Fifa and provided comprehensive evidence demonstrating its compliance with the applicable Fifa regulations”.
Sources familiar with the Fifa investigation have confirmed that another four English top-flight clubs are running the risk of a transfer ban, along with high-profile clubs across Europe. The identity of the other English quartet has not been revealed, though Fifa confirmed in September 2017 that Manchester City’s conduct involving youth players was under review. The Premier League champions denied any knowledge of the situation at the time.
In a statement, Fifa said: “As communicated in September 2017, investigations were opened concerning the club Chelsea FC as well as other English clubs in relation to potential breaches of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. The proceedings are ongoing and, to date, no decision has been passed by the Fifa judicial bodies. Thus, the clubs are to be presumed innocent unless decided otherwise. No further information can be provided as the cases are ongoing.”
Fifa’s rules prohibit the international transfer of players under the age of 18 unless their parents have emigrated for reasons unconnected with football, or if both the player and the purchasing club are based within 50km of a national border. There are exceptions relating to transfers within the European Union or European Economic Area.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have been found guilty of infringements related to the signing of minors, with Atlético and Barcelona serving a two-window embargo and Real’s similar punishment halved to one.
The investigation into Chelsea was carried out by the compliance unit of Fifa’s transfer matching system (TMS), which was first alerted by the case of Bertrand Traoré, the Burkina Faso forward who now plays for Lyon. He was signed on professional terms by the Premier League club on January 1st 2014, the first day of the window immediately after his 18th birthday, despite being pictured playing in an under-18s game against Arsenal when he was only 16. The club subsequently admitted they had acquired a first-refusal option to sign the player in April 2011, with “the option agreement registered with, and approved by, both the FA and the Premier League”.
Mediapart has suggested the Fifa investigatory body has proposed a fine of 500,000 Swiss francs and an embargo across four transfer window for offences relating to the recruitment of minors involving 19 players, including 14 minors who were illegally transferred. “We will not comment further on speculation concerning confidential contracts or player related matters,” added Chelsea’s statement.