Chelsea today received one of the stiffest penalties ever sanctioned by world governing body FIFA after it lost a case heard by the body’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC). The London club, which has been banned from buying any players for the next two transfer windows, was punished by FIFA’s following a contractual dispute between French club Lens, Chelsea and the player Gael Kakuta. But while many rival supporters will find humour in Chelsea’s punishment, the issue of transferring under-18 players internationally is a red hot one. One that could end up impacting on United too.
“The French club had lodged a claim with FIFA seeking compensation for breach of contract from the player and requesting also sporting sanctions to be imposed on the player and the English club for breach of contract and inducement to breach of contract respectively,” said FIFA in a statement on its website today.
“The DRC found that the player had indeed breached a contract signed with the French club. Equally, the DRC deemed it to be established that the English club induced the player to such a breach.
“As a result the player was condemned to pay compensation in the amount of €780,000, for which the club, Chelsea, are jointly and severally liable, and sporting sanctions were imposed on both the player and Chelsea,” it concluded.
In addition to Chelsea’s punishment, Kakuta was personally banned from playing for four months. Chelsea, has also been forced to pay Lens “training compensation” of €130,000. The London club has already said that it will appeal the decision.
But Chelsea, who were fined £300,000 over the Ashley Cole ‘tapping up’ affair four years ago, is not the only club to engage in the shady practice of signing kids from abroad. Arsenal, Liverpool and United too have manipulated the international transfer market to pick up players when they are younger and cheaper. Although the London club is the only English side to have been punished for ‘inducing’ a player to break his contract.
In recent seasons United has signed Giuseppe Rossi, Gerrard Piqué, Federico Macheda, Davide Petrucci and Paul Pogba amid a storm of protest and recrimination from each of the players’ parent clubs. Indeed, United has made millions from the re-sale of Rossi and Piqué – and potentially saved millions in transfer fees on the others.
To date there is nothing to stop English clubs signing up under-18 players from continental Europe – or indeed further abroad in the case of United’s da Silva twins and Rodrigo Possebon. And while there is absolutely no proof that United has acted illegally in the case of the aforementioned kids, the club’s reputation and actions have repeatedly been questioned.
“We are still pursuing our case,” Le Havre managing director Alain Belsoeur told The Times in the case of Pogba.
“It is a very serious case. We are confident that we’ll win because it is in the best interests not just of our club but of sport.
“We spend five million euros on our academy every year out of a turnover of 12 million euros. It is a huge investment. We do that to give a chance to our players to develop for our first team, not to be an academy for others. What is the point of investing in an academy if the players leave at 16? This is clearly a message from FIFA to protect the education system.”
Indeed, FIFA seems determined to act, and the Chelsea case may be the first shot across the bows in a wider battle. Smaller European clubs, like Lens, are willing FIFA on.
“We expected this kind of decision,” Lens president Gervais Martel said today.
“The player was under contract with us and they came and stole him away from us. Chelsea didn’t follow the rules. They contacted the player when he wasn’t even 16 and while he had been contracted to our training group from the age of eight.
“It’s an important message given that protecting up and coming youth players who are contracted to clubs is an issue being followed closely by Uefa president Michel Platini.”
Chelsea’s guilt may be a clear breach of contract on the player’s part but the issue of youth transfers is very closely linked in the corridors of power. Platini, together with his counterpart at FIFA Sepp Blatter, would like to see a wholesale ban on the transfer of under-18 players and heavy compensation payable in cases where young players are taken from their parent clubs. Indeed, training compensation payments are already being demanded by parent clubs for players transferred for a second time or third time. This happened in the case of Dimitar Berbatov when the Bulgarian moved from Tottenham Hotspur to United last summer and CSKA Sofia demanded hundreds of thousands from United in compensation.
United, together with their Premier League rivals, will be looking at the Chelsea case with increased interest tonight. FIFA, it seems, is on the the lookout.