FIFA has hit Chelsea with a registration ban for the next two transfer windows, preventing them from signing new players until the summer of 2020, because of violations related to the signing of players under the age of 18.
After a three-year investigation of how the club signed young players for its academy, FIFA determined that Chelsea broke its rule that essentially prohibits signing minors from other countries, with a few exceptions. Chelsea were charged with 92 violations of that rule, and found guilty on 29, though it hasn’t been specified who those players were. The club maintains that most of these players were on short-term trial, and that there’s no rule against bringing on minors for tryouts. In the cases in which a player was actually signed, they say everything was above board.
Chelsea will still be able to bring back all of their approximately five billion players who are out on loan, even with the ban, so this won’t impact, for example, Christian Pulisic’s move to the club. And though this is commonly referred to as a “transfer ban,” it’s actually a ban on registering new players. This distinction means Chelsea could still sign players from other clubs but won’t be able to register them to play for Chelsea until the ban is up. (See: Turan, Arda.) Still, it’s a massive blow for a club in flux between an older, unhappy generation led by Eden Hazard and his desire to move to Real Madrid, and a potential new crop of players who could fit in best with struggling manager Maurizio Sarri’s preferred style of play.
On top of the ban, Chelsea were fined £460,000 and given 90 days to “regularise the situation of the minor players concerned,” which may mean they’ll have to get rid of any players that they brought to the club illicitly. Chelsea say they will appeal the punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and if that takes as long as the transfer ban appeals of Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atlético Madrid from a couple years ago, the appeal process will likely delay the effect of the ban for long enough to potentially allow Chelsea to sign and register new players this summer.