FIFA penalizes Barcelona for signing underage players

FC Barcelona has been handed a one-year transfer ban by FIFA, soccer's governing body announced Wednesday.

The club is expected to appeal the ruling.

Dating back to 2009, FIFA asserts, Barcelona has improperly signed 10 players under the age of 18. Below is a relevant portion of FIFA's statement regarding the rules that have been breached.

Currently, the main provision relating to the protection of minors in the context of international transfers is art. 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (the "Regulations"). According to art. 19, international transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18. However, the same article stipulates that international transfers of minor players are permitted under three limited circumstances, and such exceptions may only be granted after evaluation by the sub-committee of the Players’ Status Committee.

In this respect, the Disciplinary Committee emphasised that the protection of minors in the context of international transfers is an important social and legal issue that concerns all stakeholders in football. Above all, the committee highlighted that while international transfers might, in specific cases, be favourable to a young player’s sporting career, they are very likely to be contrary to the best interests of the player as a minor. On the basis of this analysis, the committee concluded that "the interest in protecting the appropriate and healthy development of a minor as a whole must prevail over purely sporting interests."

FIFA says it's investigation found that Barcelona "violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of non-Spanish minors with the club, as well as other relevant regulations with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in national competitions."

"With regard to the case in question, FC Barcelona has been found to be in breach of art. 19 of the Regulations in the case of ten minor players and to have committed several other concurrent infringements in the context of other players," the statement reads.

Due to the suspension, the Spanish club will be unable to sign any players until the summer of 2015. Barcelona was also fine $509,000 for the infractions.

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