Chelsea Transfer Ban - One Step Beyond?


Chelsea's travails both on and off the pitch have been well documented of late. 

Their recent 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup saw their own supporters chanting that their manager, Marizio Sarri, should be "sacked in the morning". He attributed the loss to his own players being "extremely difficult to motivate", which suggests a dressing room less than entirely at ease with his so called "Sarri-ball" system of play. 

Not a great look in advance of Sunday's Carabao Cup final against free-scoring, quadruple chasing Manchester City. Who let us recall triumphed 6-0 against the West London outfit when they last played in the Premier League, a matter of weeks ago. 

So the last thing the club will have wanted to hear today was that it faces a two window ban on signing players and a £460,000 fine, following no less than 29 breaches of FIFA Article 19, which relates to the transfer of players under 18. Incredibly, FIFA were initially investigating 92 alleged breaches. 

Fifa’s starting point is that clubs cannot bring in players under 18 from other countries, unless their parents have emigrated for reasons not connected to football or both the player and club are based within 50km of a national border. Article 19 provides that the only exception is for transfers within either the European Union or European Economic Area, where the player is aged between 16 and 18.

Chelsea argued that the majority of the cases involved in this investigation were short-term trialists at their academy, who did not go on to sign for them. They also asserted that there is no law against trialing under-18 international players, a common practice throughout Europe, such that these cases ought not to have been included in the final judgment at all. Otherwise, they claimed to have complied with the rules. 

Unfortunately for the club, FIFA concluded that it has had seriously overstepped the mark and that these cases have to be pursued, as they are designed to help protect children from what amounts to exploitation and people trafficking. The reason for a two window ban is that anything less can be planned for or worked around. 

Needless to say, Chelsea have indicated their intention to Appeal - as have the FA, having been fined £391,000 as part of the same investigation. This will automatically stay the ban and such is the process that it may be months, or perhaps over a year, till the final outcome is know - as was the case with prior bans handed out to both Real and Atletico Madrid in 2016. Ultimately, the dispute may well be decided in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

The supreme irony is that Chelsea have received a transfer ban for signing youngsters who rarely ever play in the first team; rather these youngsters are loaned out. The number had reached a remarkable 29, the last time I looked, or played in the youth teams, accruing value  before being sold on, often for astronomical sums. 

For example and following last night's victory over Malmo in the Europa League, Sarri conceded that the highly rated Callum Husdon-Odoi - a goalscorer on the night and subject of a £35m bid from Bayern Munich in the last transfer window - had little if any chance of starting a Premiere League game, unless and until the club sold one of their high profile wide players, perhaps Eden Hazard.

This is a financial model which and until now has served Chelsea remarkably well. It balanced out its previous "cheque book" policy of signing numerous big name players for astronomical sums, following the takeover by current owner, Roman Abramovich. It has also enabled the club to make similar, select signings, without breaching UEFA's infamous rules surrounding so called "financial fair play". 

This latest development may well result in a root and branch review of Chelsea's policy and any other clubs pursuing or thinking about pursuing the same policy. 

That said and looking on the bright side, there is nothing preventing Chelsea from recalling those players it has out on loan, presenting a great opportunity for the players concerned, albeit they may not be the household names Chelsea fans are used to cheering on. 

As any Blues fan will tell you, wins at Stamford Bridge are celebrated by playing their anthem "One Step Beyond" - in honour of Suggs, lead singer of Madness and one of its best known celebrity fans.  Today's developments are at best a serious "Embarrassment" and potentially,  a game changer for both the club and the Premiership as a whole.

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Chelsea handed two-window transfer ban by Fifa for breaching regulations over the transfer of minors