Nearly eight months after first announcing transfer sanctions on both Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in response to rule violations in the signing of underage players, FIFA has officially rejected the two clubs’ appeals. Neither Madrid club will be able to register new players until January of 2018.
Like Barcelona before them, Real and Atlético were found to be in violation of FIFA’s regulations on the signing of players under the age of 18. FIFA has very specific guidelines describing when a player can move from his native country to join a foreign club, and the two capital clubs were adjudged to have broken those rules on multiple occassions.
The rules are nobly targeted. The situation these protection-of-minor rules are meant to prevent is something like this: say an impoverished Russian 14-year-old was signed by Real Madrid, left home and family behind to join the team, eventually got cut after failing to make the grade, and found himself stranded in a foreign land with no support system in place to get him back home. Scenarios like these are indeed deplorable and should be prevented, but the rules as currently drawn up are over-broad and can wind up punishing players by inhibiting their ability to receive the best training possible at clubs that want them, merely because of where they were born.
Nevertheless, FIFA’s decision to reject Real’s and Atlético’s appeals is consistent, at least. There was some talk before the decision came down today that the punishments here would be leavened to some degree, perhaps cut down to a single transfer window or maybe even just a fine. That would’ve been odd, considering these two clubs broke the same rules that Barcelona did when they were made to sit out two entire transfer windows.
Both Real and Atlético will now almost certainly appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as did Barcelona. As was in the case for Barça, the CAS will probably reject their appeal, too. Both teams have deep squads stuffed with young talent, so there’s a good chance the inability to register—and remember, this isn’t a ban on the signing of players; either team could purchase a new player tomorrow, they just wouldn’t be able to use him in a competitive match until he was registered in the 2017-18 season’s winter transfer window—doesn’t hurt either team’s on-field product all that much. Still, this is a significant blow.