Friday 23 February 2018

'Crazy rules' allowed Barca's £130m spree despite transfer ban

Barcelona exploited the delay in their transfer ban by stockpiling players this summer, including the purchase of Luis Suarez for a fee of £75m. Photo: REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino
Barcelona exploited the delay in their transfer ban by stockpiling players this summer, including the purchase of Luis Suarez for a fee of £75m. Photo: REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

Ben Rumsby

Fifa's rules which allowed Barcelona to spend more than any other club this summer after being hit with a transfer ban were branded "crazy" last night by its own vice-president.

Jim Boyce, Britain's most senior football official, led calls for the game's governing body to change regulations that permitted Barca to splurge £130million on Luis Suarez and four other players, following their failed appeal against a year-long suspension on making new signings.

Issued in April over their recruitment tactics regarding youngsters, Barcelona's transfer ban had been intended to apply to this summer and next January's windows. But their decision to contest the guilty verdict led to their sanction being suspended pending a judgment by Fifa's appeal committee, which was finally announced yesterday, more than four months after the original decision by its disciplinary committee.

Barcelona exploited the delay by stockpiling players this summer, spending £75m on Suarez, £15m on each of Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Mathieu and Ivan Rakitic, and £9m on goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

Having succeeded in deferring their punishment to the January and summer 2015 windows, there is nothing to stop the club spending again before the current buying and selling period ends. They could even delay the sanction for another window after yesterday refusing to accept the decision of Fifa's appeal committee and announcing they would take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"It's crazy," Boyce said when asked about a loophole that had been so easily exploited. "They do appear to have got round the system."

Boyce questioned why Barcelona's appeal could not be heard "much quicker", the summer transfer window having not opened until June 1.

"Four months appears a long time," he added. "Perhaps Fifa must now look at its own rules and decide whether or not a decision should stand until an appeal is heard."

Fifa's rules in the Barcelona transfer ban case certainly appear at odds with its regulations regarding another controversy involving the club.

Like his new employers, Suarez (right) took his appeal against his four-month biting ban to the CAS. But he was forced to continue serving his suspension during the appeal process, missing Uruguay's World Cup defeat by Colombia in the process. In the end, the striker only succeeded in annulling the part of his punishment that had prevented him training with his team-mates.

Barcelona will hope to fare better when they appear before sport's highest court, having announced their intention to fight their transfer ban to the bitter end. The club said in a statement: "FC Barcelona announces that it shall continue defending its interests before the highest sporting authority, in this case the Court of Arbitration for Sport. FC Barcelona may not in any way share a resolution that is an affront to the spirit of our Masia [academy], a world-renowned example of academic, human and sporting education."

Barca may also cite the CAS's decision four years ago to overturn a similar transfer ban imposed on Chelsea over the signing of Gael Kakuta. The Catalan giants and the Spanish football federation (RFEF) were originally found guilty in April of a "serious" breach of rules relating to the international transfer and registration of 10 under-18 players between 2009 and 2013.

Such players can join a team from a foreign country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons, if they are from another nation within the European Union or European Economic Area and aged between 16 and 18, or if they live within 100km of the club.

Barcelona were also fined 450,000 Swiss francs (£300,000), while the RFEF was fined 500,000 (£330,000) and given a year to "regularise its regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football".

Had Barcelona's ban come into force this summer, it would have had a devastating impact on a club desperate to rejuvenate their squad after a disappointing season.

They finished third in the Primera Liga and failed to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2007. They also lost club legends defender Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes, players they could hardly afford not to replace.

Being able to make signings also allowed them to conduct a clear-out which included selling Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea and Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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