FIFA has rejected Barcelona's appeal against the transfer ban placed upon the Catalan club after they were adjudged to have signed a number of minors illegally.
The governing body revealed its final decision after Barca launched an appeal:
FIFA rejects appeals of FC Barcelona and Spanish FA in relation to transfers of minors. http://t.co/e7PDv1Co5b— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) August 20, 2014
Rob Harris of The Associated Press confirmed that the transfer ban will come into effect during this season's winter transfer window:
Breaking: FIFA rejects Barcelona's appeal against transfer ban ... but ban doesn't start until Jan 2015— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) August 20, 2014
FIFA's official statement confirms the Blaugrana cannot sign any player at "both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods," meaning any Camp Nou arrivals after this summer will need to wait until January 2016.
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC highlighted further implications from the ban:
FIFA: "Barcelona also ordered to pay CHF 450,000 fine & given 90 days to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) August 20, 2014
Graham Hunter of Sky Sports confirms Barcelona will head to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to overturn, or lessen, the sanctions:
#Barça announce they'll take their case over FIFA transfer ban to Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS)— Graham Hunter (@BumperGraham) August 20, 2014
An official club statement indicated Barca will fight the charges. "FC Barcelona may not in any way share a resolution that is an affront to the spirit of our Masia, a world renowned example of academic, human and sporting education," read the Spanish side's response.
Barcelona's La Masia academy is one of world football's most famous and prides itself on providing young players with the ability to develop both their sporting and educational skills. A plethora of world-class graduates have played defining roles in the club's history, including Pep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
Messi recently praised Barca's academy, saying, "I arrived as a kid and grew up here. The values of La Masia shaped me as a person. What I learnt at the club made me what I am," per Marca.
Barcelona's decision to challenge FIFA's original ruling allowed the club to snap up players this summer. Originally in place at the onset of the current window, last season's La Liga runners-up have bought enough time to strengthen for the next year.
As noted by Corrigan, the club's ability to pre-empt FIFA's final verdict may have led to an increased willingness to spend:
Can see why Barca so keen to spend over €150m this summer on Suarez, Rakitic, Ter-Stegen, Bravo, Vermaelen, Halilovic & Mathieu.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) August 20, 2014
It is widely reported that 10 signings have led Barcelona to this punishment, despite previous warnings from FIFA. Luis F. Rojo of Marca detailed the immoral signing of nine players who were 18 or younger, all of whom are said to have fallen foul "of clubs scouring the world for young talent and taking children from their home countries in defiance of FIFA's rules," per Martyn Ziegler of The Independent.
Will the transfer ban significantly lower Barcelona's chances of success in 2015?
Rojo noted Antonio Sanabria may be one such player, while confirming Barcelona's acquisition of Patrice Sousia, Giancarlo Poveda, Lee Seung Woo, Chan Kyul Hee, Bobby Adekanye, Paik Seung Ho, Theo Chendri, Andrei Onana and Maxi Rolon led FIFA to delivering the sanction.
The Guardian's Ed Aarons suggests Barcelona failed to take responsibility after ignoring FIFA's previous messages of caution. He says it is "now more than a year" since FIFA President Sepp Blatter "publicly backed the imposition of sanctions relating to six Barca players which prevented them from playing competitive games despite being registered and allowed to train with the club."
FIFA's decision is likely to kick-start 12 days of transfer madness at Camp Nou. Luis Enrique heads into his first season in charge knowing his decisions this summer could define his tenure. He has no room for mistakes when buying players and will want to ensure his squad is adequately stacked once the Sept. 1 deadline arrives.
Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Thomas Vermaelen were always going to be important signings, but they must settle in quickly to stop any concerns over the ban heightening. Barcelona's last-ditched attempt will come with the CAS hearing, but as highlighted with the upholding of Suarez's four-month ban during his recent visit, the tribunal may be unlikely to budge.
Whatever happens, Barca face a huge few weeks. Enrique may be wise to cram his squad with greater numbers than usual or indeed place his faith in those currently working at Barcelona B level.