Lucky escape

City avoid Fifa transfer ban over ‘international transfers of minors’

City said their rule breach was in relation to players on trial, and their participation in friendly games

In Summary

• Premier League champions only get a paltry £315,000 fine.

• Uefa could still throw them out of the Champions League for FFP breaches.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling, David Silva, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Rodri pose with the trophy as they celebrate winning the FA Community Shield
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling, David Silva, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Rodri pose with the trophy as they celebrate winning the FA Community Shield
Image: /REUTERS

Manchester City have escaped a transfer ban for breaching Fifa rules on signing youth players, benefitting seemingly from new disciplinary rules that did not exist when Chelsea were hit with a two-window suspension earlier this year.

City insiders insist the key reason for only receiving a £315,000 fine was the fact that their breaches were less serious than their Premier League rivals, and while precise details are not yet available there does seem to be some truth in that.

 

It is claimed the number of young players involved was ‘significantly fewer’, while the manner in which certain rules were broken was said to be less flagrant. “The change in the rules is not the reason for the apparent clemency,” a source said.

But last month Fifa introduced a new regulation that states that sanctions can be reduced if a club accepts responsibility for breaking the rules and that was not an option open to Chelsea or other clubs, particularly in Spain, that have been hit with transfer bans in recent seasons.

While the case dates back to 2014, it was only last week that City’s lawyers made their final submission, with a decision arriving on Tuesday afternoon. Fifa said City had breached article 19 of its regulations, which states that ‘international transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18’.

“The Fifa disciplinary committee has sanctioned English club Manchester City FC for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18,” said football’s world governing body in a statement.

“Manchester City FC was found to have breached, among others, article 19 of the Fifa Regulations on the status and transfer of players. The disciplinary committee took into account the fact that Manchester City FC accepted its responsibility and sanctioned the club with a fine of CHF 370,000 (Sh39m).”

The regulation introduced on July 10 as part of Fifa’s new code of conduct states: “At any time prior to the meeting set up to decide the case by the relevant judicial body, a party may accept responsibility and request the Fifa judicial bodies to impose a specific sanction. The Fifa judicial bodies may decide on the basis of such request or render a decision which it considers appropriate in the context of this Code.”

It was unclear on Tuesday night if City requested a specific sanction but it will certainly be interesting to see if Chelsea, who are appealing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have their transfer ban overturned, think their case has been strengthened by Tuesday’s outcome. At the time Chelsea contested the Fifa charges.

 

City said their rule breach was in relation to players on trial, and their participation in friendly games, insisting they have been ‘fully compliant’ since having ‘cooperated fully’ with the Fifa investigation.

“The club accepts responsibility for the breaches which arose as a result of misinterpretation of the regulations in question,” said the English champions.

It was last year two players, George Davies from Sierra Leone and Dominic Oduro from Ghana, told a Danish newspaper that they signed for City and played in youth matches before they turned 18. At Chelsea, however, perhaps the most glaring breach concerned Bertrand Traore, who was involved with the club for more than two years prior to signing at 18.

In the end Chelsea were sanctioned for breaching rules in relation to 29 youth players, and were fined £460,000 (Sh57m) in addition to now being able to sign players in this summer’s transfer window and next January’s.

City remain under investigation by Uefa and could yet be banned from the Champions League for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. While the Premier League are also investigating City’s recruitment of academy players, with the Football Association examining their signing of Jadon Sancho as a 14-year-old from Watford.