Barcelona and FIFA Appeals: How to Sign Players During a Transfer Ban

Yesterday FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, announced that FC Barcelona’s appeal to lift the transfer ban and fines imposed on the club for violating FIFA’s youth international transfer regulations has been rejected in full. According to FIFA,

FC Barcelona is to serve a transfer ban which will see the club prevented from registering any players at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, starting with the next registration period (January 2015) given that the appeal of the club had been granted suspensive effect by the chairman of the FIFA Appeal Committee. FC Barcelona has also been ordered to pay a fine of CHF 450,000 and been given a period of 90 days from today in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned.

BOS_Barca logoThe ban was originally issued on April 2nd of this year, to which Barcelona quickly replied with an appeal to FIFA over the matter. Many in the soccer community have been under the impression that Barcelona were under the transfer ban, starting from the date of issue. Yet, the 2014 summer transfer window has been extremely busy and lucrative for Barcelona. Many observing the situation would question how Barcelona was able to participate at all in this summer’s transfer window given the fact that FIFA had just issued the club a transfer ban. An excellent question to be sure.

The chair of FIFA’s Appeals Committee suspended the ban, as well as the fine, until the appeal decision had been reached. This was due to the fact that there was very little likelihood that the matter would be concluded before the beginning of the summer transfer window, July 1, because of the time it would take to not only hear and investigate the club’s appeal with FIFA, but also because of the possibility, and very probable scenario, that Barcelona would file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), should their appeal with FIFA be denied. It was, and so they have.

Essentially, because the matter would most likely not be concluded prior to the start of this summer’s transfer window, FIFA chose to suspend the ban until the matter fully came to a close. As it turned out, the matter was not concluded by July 1, so any ban FIFA would impose on the club would need to start at the next available transfer window, which is not until this coming winter. This means that despite what many would believe, Barcelona’s transfers this summer were not achieved under an effective transfer ban from FIFA, which might change people’s opinions of FIFA in this regard.

Thus far, Barcelona have signed 7 players to the club during this summer’s transfer window, which is still open.

Barcelona 2014 transfer signings

courtesy BBC Sport

This list only shows player signings, and does not include players that the club have been able to offload as well during this time, including Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea, as well as Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal, among others. The club raked in about €70.8 million ($93.9 mn) gross from the sale of these two players alone in transfer fees, which would pay for their CHF 450,000 ($492.2k) fine more than 190 times, for some perspective. If someone was unaware of the suspension for the ban granted by FIFA, it would definitely be easy to see how someone might draw the conclusion that Barcelona was getting away with one. However, this is not “technically” the case, for the reasons previously explained.

Some might argue that the suspension on the transfer ban was not fair for clubs that may have also been in the running for the likes of Luis Suarez, Thomas Vermaelen, and Jeremy Mathieu, all world class players in their respective positions. But consider the alternative. If FIFA had not suspended the transfer ban on Barcelona for this transfer window for the appeal process, and Barcelona were to have either won the FIFA appeal or the CAS appeal, they would have wasted a lot of time and missed out on these key players without cause. FIFA essentially had to choose the lesser of two evils and suspend the transfer ban and allow Barcelona to participate in the summer transfer window. The ban will still be served, pending the CAS decision, and Barcelona will still be punished, but some might argue that they have been able to work the system to get the players they truly wanted, and will be able to survive the ban relatively unaffected due to the signings they were able to achieve this summer. At least one thing is for sure – Barcelona won’t have to worry about player expenditures counting against them for financial fair play as much over the next couple of years if the ban is upheld by the CAS.


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Reporting on the business side of the world's game.