Date: 12th May 2019 at 10:39am
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Chairman of the FIFA Appeal Committee explains the decision to uphold the transfer ban

In an interview in his native Sweden, Thomas Bodström – chariman of the FIFA Appeal Committee, talks about the decision to partly uphold the transfer ban. He says that they deliberated for several hours before making the decision, that they dealt with “very skillful lawyers” and he explains why they decided to permit Chelsea to register domestic players under the age of 16.

FIFA announced, in the end of February, that Chelsea had been found guilty of violating the rules for signing players under the age of 18. The London club was banned from signing players over the course of two transfer windows, in the coming summer and in January 2020. They were also fined £460,000. The ruling followed a FIFA investigation of 92 under-aged players that Chelsea has signed over the years.

Chelsea appealed the ruling to FIFA’s Appeal Committee, and were informed earlier this week that the ruling is upheld, but with one exception. Chelsea are – despite the transfer ban – permitted to register domestic players under the age of 16.

A statement from FIFA said: “The ban on registering new players for two registration periods has been confirmed, with the following exception: the appeal committee believes that Chelsea’s wrongdoing consisted in not respecting the prohibition from internationally transferring or registering for the first time foreign minor players. In the committee’s opinion, imposing a ban on registering each and every minor would not be proportionate to the offence committed.

“Consequently, the appeal committee decided that, as far as youth categories are concerned, the ban shall not cover the registration of minor players under the age of 16.”

In an exclusive interview with the Swedish website Thomas Bodström, chairman of the FIFA Appeal Committee, explains the proceedings and how they reached that rather discrepant outcome. He starts by suggesting that it was not obvious that the transfer ban would be upheld.

“No, I would not say so. We deliberated for several hours and were very thorough. It was a large number of players and many objections. We had to deal with very skillful lawyers and we negotiated for hours, he told the website.

Bodström does not think it is harder to punish a club as big as Chelsea, and suggested that this type of clubs have bigger resources than smaller clubs in such cases.

“I think it should be the same, but of course Chelsea have obviously bigger resources and can act according to them. They came with very skillful lawyers, and I am a lawyer myself, so it was an experience. But the rules are the same.”

Bodström also explains why FIFA’s Appeal Committee chose to make an exception for Chelsea to sign players under the age of 16:

“We upheld a big part of the ruling, but with an exception to British citizens. The ban is applicable to all international transfers to protect kids. But to protect the players who live in the Chelsea area they will have the opportunity to play. They should not be punished for this. Because then they would be affected by this in a harder way than others. Those who come from other places and are 16, 17, 18 years old can go to other clubs, but the domestic players maybe can’t, he said.

Bodström continues:

“The part about youth players is incredibly important. Of course there are many clubs who are serious, and Chelsea will be in the future, but the kids can get hurt if the clubs don’t follow the rules. There is a strong protection interest, because many players come from poor countries. They might not be able to return, and end up in a totally different environment in a foreign country. The rules must be followed.”

Bodström cannot answer why FIFA did not decide to make the exception regarding domestic players in the first instance:

“I’m only on this committee, so I can’t answer why. I only have an influence over the cases that I rule in and nothing else. But I do hope that this can become precedent. It is not the kids that should be punished, but the clubs”.

Earlier clubs like Barcelona and Atlético Madrid have been on the receiving end of a transfer ban. Bodström says that it’s more usual with this kind of punishments than you might think, but it is rarely reported as much when it comes to smaller clubs.

Following the ruling from the Appeal Committee Chelsea announced that they will appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS. A club statement reads:

‘The Club notes that the FIFA Appeal Committee has decided to partially uphold the appeal lodged by Chelsea FC against the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. However, the Club is very disappointed that the transfer ban of two consecutive registration periods was not overturned.

‘Chelsea FC categorically refutes the findings of the FIFA Appeal Committee. It acted in accordance with the relevant regulations and will appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”

Bodström believes that the ruling will be upheld, but he also states that he has his doubts.

“CAS have ruled in different ways in the Spanish cases, but it is a big decision, so I fully understand that they have chosen to appeal to them”, he said.

“I have detached myself from this, but of course I follow the matter. I think they will appeal immediately since the first window is already in the summer.”

Sourced from an original article in translated by Fredrik Temmes and Daniel Joannou