KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Chelsea’s torment has been exacerbated, ahead of the League Cup Final which could cost manager Maurizio Sarri his job, by a two-window transfer ban.

The punishment was imposed by world football federation FIFA which judged that the west London club, who face Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday, had breached international regulations over the signing of no fewer than 29 youngsters.

Chelsea, despite having progressed past Malmo last night to the third round of the Europa League, already had enough problems: owner Roman Abramovich is barred from the UK because of a politically-driven visa issue and the eight-month-old ‘style revolution’ under Sarri has ground to a halt with unrest among players and fans.

New problems ahead for Chelsea boss Sarri

The latest blow has made Chelsea the first major Premier League to suffer such severe embarrassment and will prompt more questions about a business model which has been built around vacuuming up young starlets from around the world and selling them on at a profit when most never see even a Premier League substitutes’ bench.

FIFA tightened up its regulations on the transfer of minors a decade ago amid concern about the trafficking from Africa but also South America of very young players who were abandoned in Europe when they failed to make the grade.

Legal complications

Application and understanding of the rules is complicated because of varying laws in different countries over employment rights and the age of majority.

Under FIFA rules, intended to provide an international standard, players under 18 can move abroad only if his/her parents move for non-football reasons; and if both clubs are in the European Union or European Economic Area and the player is aged between 16 and 18.

Transfer bans for breaching these rules in recent years have been imposed, notably, on Barcelona (31 minors), Atletico Madrid (221) and Real Madrid (70).

The experience of the Spanish clubs suggests that Chelsea, at the least, will be able to delay the imposition of the transfers ban by submitting an appeal. The ban does not prevent the release of players and will not apply to Chelsea’s women’s team.

Chelsea have not only been served with a transfer ban but fined CHF 600,000 while the Football Association has been fined CHF 510,000, presumably for approving the player registrations. The club have three days in which to appeal with a final verdict unlikely before the autumn. This would allow the club to rush ahead with a high-price squad rebuilding programme in the summer.

Oddly, the transfer ban might secure Sarri in his job because he is best-placed to advise the club on which players to sell and which positions to fill. One almost certain vacancy now will be that of attacking inspiration since the latest turn of events has surely driven Eden Hazard closer to Real Madrid.

Last November, when first indications of an inquiry emerged from the Football Leaks revelations, Chelsea said the club had “fully co-operated with FIFA [and] provided comprehensive evidence demonstrating its compliance with the applicable regulations.”

Chelsea, in a first reaction to the ruling, said the original concerns had related to 92 players. The club added: “FIFA has accepted that there was no breach in relation to 63 of these players but the club is extremely disappointed that FIFA has not accepted the club’s submissions in relation to the remaining 29.

“Chelsea acted in accordance with the relevant regulations and will shortly be submitting its appeal to FIFA.”

The FA will also object to the FIFA verdict. An FA statement said: “The FA intends to appeal against the decision. We will, however, continue to work with FIFA and Chelsea in a constructive manner to address the issues which are raised by this case.”

FIFA statement:

—- The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the English club Chelsea FC and The Football Association for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

Chelsea was found to have breached art. 19 of the Regulations in the case of twenty-nine (29) minor players and to have committed several other infringements relating to registration requirements for players. The club also breached art. 18bis of the Regulations in connection with two agreements it concluded concerning minors and which allowed it to influence other clubs in transfer-related matters.

The Disciplinary Committee sanctioned Chelsea with a ban on registering new players at both national and international level for the next two (2) complete and consecutive registration periods. This ban applies to the club as a whole – with the exception of the women’s and futsal teams – and does not prevent the release of players.

Additionally, the club was fined CHF 600,000 and given a period of 90 days to regularise the situation of the minor players concerned.

The Football Association was also found to have breached the rules in connection with minors.  It was fined CHF 510,000 and given a period of six months to address the situation concerning the international transfer and first registration of minors in football.

The protection of minors is a key element in FIFA’s overall regulatory framework relating to the transfer of players and effective enforcement of these rules is paramount, as also confirmed on various occasions by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The decisions issued by the Disciplinary Committee were notified today and can be contested before the FIFA Appeal Committee.

Europa League draw:

* Chelsea have been drawn against Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine in the third round of the Europa League.

Full draw:

Chelsea v D Kiev; E Frankfurt v Inter; Dinamo Z. v Benfica; Napoli v Salzburg; Valencia v Krasnodar; Sevilla v Slavia Prague; Arsenal v Rennes;  Zenit v Villarreal.