Today, FIFA announced unparalleled sanctions against Barcelona for repeated and systemic violations of the international body's youth transfer rules. Barcelona has been banned from any transfer activity for the entirety of next season. This is the coup de grâce in what already has been a monumentally embarrassing season for the club's leadership.
Here's what FIFA had to say about the punishment in a statement:
The sanctions follow investigations initially conducted by FIFA Transfer Matching System GmbH (FIFA TMS) over the course of last year and subsequently by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee as part of disciplinary proceedings. The RFEF and FC Barcelona were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of non-Spanish minors with the club, as well as other relevant regulations with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in national competitions. The investigations concerned several minor players who were registered and participated in competitions with the club over various periods between 2009 and 2013.
The rules in question involve the transfer of under-18 prospects, which are permitted only under very specific circumstances in order to protect young kids from predatory agents. Last year, six Barça youth players acquired in this improper manner were suspended from play. FIFA says Barcelona violated these rules on 10 occasions, as well as commiting several other, concurrent violations. (For what it's worth, FIFA also found the Spanish Federation as a whole in violation of the same rules, though they were only hit with a fine.)
For Barcelona, this couldn't come at a worse time. The club has already seen their president, Sandro Rosell, resign amid a Spanish investigation that revealed improprieties regarding the Neymar transfer. (Barcelona announced one transfer fee, but it came out that there were a number of other payments to Neymar's dad that Spain's tax body wants a cut of.) And even that was only the boiling over of barely-concealed inner turmoil that likely led to Pep Guardiola's departure, saw club legends like Johan Cruyff ousted, and all sorts of strange political sniping that no one could understand.
Then there are the effects of the ban on the pitch. If rumors are to be believed, Barcelona had already agreed on a transfer for Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen to fill the gloves of soon-to-be free agent Victor Valdés—whose own departure is rumored to be due, at least in part, to club politics. At this point it's unclear if that transfer will go through. Plus, there had been a feeling that after years of stagnation on the transfer front, Barça would finally buy a real center back to partner with Gerard Piqué, and maybe some midfield help to deepen an aging core. Welp, at least they'll have an excuse for when they don't fill these glaring holes for at least the 4th year running.
The club's board, under new president Josep Bartomeu, has tried to distance itself from Rosell's failures. However, in light of these new revelations, it's unlikely that anybody survives the coming elections. Damn, Barça. Throwing around all that money, and you couldn't find the right guy to bribe in FIFA?
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