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Volume 7 No. 149
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Court Of Arbitration For Sport Upholds Barcelona's 1-Year Ban From Transfer Market

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday dismissed Barcelona's appeal and "upheld a transfer ban that FIFA imposed on the club for breaking rules on registering minors as youth players," according to the AP. The ruling means Barcelona will be "barred from signing any players" during either the winter or summer transfer windows this year. CAS said in a statement, "Barcelona had breached the rules regarding the protection of minors and the registration of minors attending football academies." Though banned from the next two int'l signing periods, the club "can still renew existing contracts, fire players and recall those loaned to other clubs, such as Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu, both at Sevilla." CAS also upheld a fine of ($455,000) imposed against Barcelona (AP, 12/30).

BARCELONA REACTS: In Madrid, Santi Giménez reported Barcelona is "considering lodging an appeal" against the decision by the CAS. The club could "take the case to the Swiss Federal Courts." On hearing the verdict, Barça "immediately issued a statement" in which it declared the ban to be "completely disproportionate." Barcelona's statement said, "FC Barcelona wishes to state, with all due respect for the sports authorities, that it totally disagrees with the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced today to confirm the sanction originally imposed by FIFA as a consequence of the alleged breach of regulations on the international transfer of minor footballers. The Club has made it clear to the FIFA Disciplinary Commission, the FIFA Appeals Commission and the CAS itself that it understands and supports the policy on the protection of minors and the concern for the protection of their development and education. ... FC Barcelona's youth structure has enabled hundreds of young players to achieve their dreams and receive a decent upbringing. The errors that the Club might have committed, and which have been recognized and argued before the corresponding authorities are, in all cases, of an administrative nature and to a large extent have been caused by the existing conflict between the FIFA regulations and Spanish legislation" (AS, 12/30). Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu said, "A great injustice has been committed today: an injustice for Barça, for all the children and parents affected by this decision, for all the Club members and for football in general. We have always made it clear that we consider FIFA's sanction to be disproportionate. This judgement by CAS, which ratifies FIFA's decision, is not good for us and defies all sporting logic. ... I hope that FIFA will show sufficient common sense to re-write this regulation and that no other club will have to suffer this injustice. Despite everything, I can guarantee our members that this sanction does not endanger the sporting project at La Masia" (FC Barcelona).

LFP QUESTIONS RULING: The LFP said in a statement, "The Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS) having announced its judgement, which confirms the penalty imposed on FC Barcelona by FIFA as a result of the alleged violation of the regulations regarding international transfers of minors, the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) would like to make the following declarations: 1 - Spanish football, through its clubs, backs the policy of protecting minors and the concern for both their development and learning. Also, it has recently proposed to the RFEF a suitable compensation system for clubs that develop young talent, which is perfectly compatible with the development of minors. 2 - The conduct of FC Barcelona and the rest of the Spanish professional football clubs, is, and will always be in favour of respect for minors and their interests and learning. This was clear in the various work meetings held this season with specialists from all the clubs and SADs (Public Limited Sports Companies) in the LFP on this subject, which concluded with a sports regulation project presented to the RFEF, as indicated above. FC Barcelona's Masia is a world leader in terms of the school and the training work carried out there, which has allowed hundreds of minors to grow as people and to learn and perfect a profession. Practically all of these young players have, after their training, worked as professional footballers at clubs around the world, especially in Europe" (LFP).

FIFA BACKS CAS: The EFE reported FIFA called the ruling by the CAS "clear and resounding support" for the work it is doing to "protect minors." FIFA said in a statement that the "protection of minors constitutes one of its fundamental pillars." The statement highlighted Article 2, part A of FIFA's statutes: "constantly improving football and promoting it throughout the world, considering its universal, educational and cultural character, as well as its humanitarian values, particularly through youth development programs" (EFE, 12/30).

MOVING FORWARD: In Barcelona, Martínez & Roura wrote, "how will this ruling affect the club during the winter and summer windows, with the situation of players on loan and the future of players like Xavi and Dani Alves?" The players from Barcelona's youth teams "will have or could have bigger roles than ever, with Munir and Sandro, as well as Adama, Samper and or Halilovic being called to enter into the plans" of Manager Luis Enrique. Loaned players including Suarez and Deulofeu "could now have a place with the first team" (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 12/30). In Barcelona, Lluís Mascaró commented that this is a "true disaster." The situation "has no remedy, but one has to take measures." The first "should be calling the anticipated elections." The club "needs to consult its members." The only way is to advance the elections (scheduled for '16) and hold them this summer. The second decision "should be a total bet on the club's youth players." In the last two seasons, "Barcelona has diverted from the path with millionaire signings, but now the inability to invest in new footballers will obligate the club to have more faith in La Masia" (SPORT, 12/30).

STATE OF SHOCK: Also in Barcelona, J.M. Artells reported "the sanction leaves Barcelona in a state of shock." The reaction "is still hesitant." An appeal to the Swiss Federal Courts "seems to be a smoke screen that should be considered a strategy to buy time." Although the club "recognized errors in its management, leaving it without the ability to sign players for a year is true abuse by FIFA." FIFA "is not addressing the problem up front and giving true legal coverage to the minors, instead making Barça pay by preventing it from competing with other teams" (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 12/30).

INTERNATIONAL ECHO: In Madrid, Javier Robledo reported "the big news has not gone unnoticed by the most important" int'l publications. Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport's front pages said, "CAS rejects Barcelona appeal, no market until 2016," and "TAS rejects appeal, Barcelona will not be able to buy in 2015." In the U.K., the BBC reported, "The Spanish club receives a sanction of 14 months after learning in April that it violated FIFA regulations." Media outlets in France "opened their sports sections with the CAS ruling." Le Parisien: "Definitively, they will not be able to sign until 2016." Also Le Monde: "The two periods of sanctions are confirmed." In Germany, Bild wrote, "Neymar and Messi will not have new teammates until next year" (AS, 12/30).