Chelsea have been accused after an initial Fifa investigation of breaking the rules on the signing of 25 foreign players under the age of 18. The number of cases could rise, with the matter now in the hands of the governing body’s disciplinary committee, which has the power to impose sanctions – chief among them a ban on transfers.
Fifa announced last September that it was looking into alleged breaches at Chelsea when it came to the recruitment of youth players from overseas – making them the first English club to face such action.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid were investigated for infringements related to the signing of minors and each was given a two-window transfer ban, although Real served only one after a successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The initial investigation into Chelsea was carried out by the compliance unit of Fifa’s Transfer Matching System (TMS) and it is believed it was first alerted by the case of Bertrand Traore, the Burkina Faso forward. He was signed to professional terms by Chelsea on January 1st, 2014, the day the transfer window opened after his 18th birthday, but pictures would emerge of him playing for the club against Arsenal in a “noncompetitive” game on October 23rd, 2011, when he was 16. The pictures came to Fifa’s attention in January 2016.
Clubs are not permitted to sign players under the age of 18 from other countries unless their parents have emigrated for reasons not connected to football or both the player and club are based within 50km of a national border. Under Fifa’s article 19, the only other exception is for transfers within either the European Union or European Economic Area where the player is aged 16-18. Fifa was concerned that Traore, who left Chelsea for Lyon last June, did not appear to fulfil any of the exemptions.