Chelsea Accused of Breaking Youth Player Signing Rules in FIFA Inquiry

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJanuary 18, 2018

Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore celebrates his goal against AC Milan during the first half of an exhibition soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

Premier League champions Chelsea have been accused of breaking rules regarding signing foreign players under the age of 18 following a FIFA investigation. 

According to David Hytner at the Guardian, the investigation looked into the signing of 25 players and the information has been passed to its disciplinary committee.

The investigation was sparked by Chelsea's signing of Bertrand Traore, who arrived at the club from Auxerre as an 18-year-old in January 2014. However, FIFA have been made aware of pictures of Traore playing for Chelsea when he was 16.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Bertrand Traore of Chelsea celebrates with teammate Willian (R) after scoring his team's fifth goal during The Emirates FA Cup fifth round match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2016 in
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

"Chelsea FC complies with all FIFA statutes and regulations when recruiting players," the club said in a statement, via Sky Sports

FIFA rules state that clubs cannot sign players from other countries who are under the age of 18 "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."

There are some exceptions, but FIFA are concerned none apply to Chelsea's signing of Traore. Traore failed to make the grade at Stamford Bridge and endured loan spells with Vitesse and Ajax before signing for Lyon in June 2017.

Chelsea are well-known for signing young players before allowing them to leave on temporary deals. The club have 33 players out on loan this season, according to Goal's Nizaar Kinsella.

The club also provide regular updates on their progress, per their official Twitter account:

The Blues send out young players and fringe members of the squad in a bid to gain experience and playing time. They have also profited hugely from their loan policy by signing youngsters for a low price and then selling them for a far higher fee.

FIFA will now dig deeper into Chelsea's dealings before sending all the evidence it compiles to an independent panel, per Hytner. The panel will then reach a verdict, but if Chelsea are found guilty, they will be able to appeal to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

A guilty verdict would also lead to sanctions that could potentially mean a transfer ban. Spanish giants Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have all been given two-window transfer bans after investigations into the "infringements related to the signing of minors."

Real Madrid managed to successfully appeal their sanction and saw their ban cut to one window, per Sky Sports News. However, Atletico saw their transfer ban upheld by the CAS, per BBC Sport.

Atletico's ban meant they signed Diego Costa from Chelsea last September, but he was unable to play for them until January when their transfer ban ended.

Paul White/Associated Press

Per Hytner, Barcelona were found guilty of 31 incidences of transgressions, Real Madrid for 37 of 70 cases investigated and Atletico Madrid of 153 of 183.

All three involve considerably higher numbers than Chelsea, but if the Blues were to be found guilty, they could potentially face some kind of transfer embargo. That would hit the champions particularly hard, with manager Antonio Conte already appearing frustrated by a lack of signings by the club.

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