I’m sure most people reading this will be aware that Chelsea have been banned from signing any new players in the next two transfer windows by FIFA for allegedly encouraging Gael Kakuta to break his contract with French club Lens to sign for them.
The reaction to this here in England by some Chelsea fans and journalists is to say that once again FIFA and UEFA have some kind of conspiracy against the Premier League. That is total nonsense as similar punishments have been handed out to Swiss side Sion earlier this year, and to Roma in 2004.
Reports are that Manchester United could similarly be in trouble for an offence of this nature, with French club Le Havre alleging that United offered Paul Pogba’s parents financial incentives in order to get him to sign for them, and I would be shocked if more English clubs do not get charged with similar offences.
While I agree with the punishment that Chelsea have received, even though I think it will be reduced with they appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, like Roma who had their transfer ban halved, I believe that the transfer of young players like Kakuta should be more severely regulated, if not stopped altogether.
Consider this transfer from Lens’ point of view. They had been training Kakuta since he was eight years old. He was obviously a highly rated prospect and I’m sure the Lens hierarchy, coaches and fans were looking forward to seeing him play in their first-team. Also, there is the small matter of the transfer fee that Lens could have received for the player, which would have been far more than the paltry sum of money they would have received by way of compensation, about £200k as per current FIFA rules.
The scramble for young players from other clubs academies came when Arsenal signed a 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona and other clubs have followed suit, hoping to uncover the next big star. Most Premier League clubs have young foreign players in their academies. The problem is that for the majority of them it will all end in disappointment and they will return home with nothing much to show for moving abroad. Chelsea have spent a reported £62m on youth players without any of them breaking into the first team.
Transfers involving players as young as this is an issue that UEFA president Michel Platini is desperate to stop altogether. He wants to implement a Europe-wide ban on transfers of under 18 year olds. The problem he faces is that anyone from a European Union country has the right to live and work in any other European Union country, so this will never be enforceable. Platini’s argument is sound, saying that if a player is good enough he can move to a top club when he is old enough.
I personally would like to see these transfers stopped altogether, but as they cannot legally be banned altogether, the only way to do it is to regulate them so severely that they become unpalatable to the club interested in the player. I propose the following (though I don’t know how legal/enforceable they will be)
- Change the rules so that any international transfer must be between a club and professional players. If the player isn’t old enough for a professional contract, he cannot change his registration.
- Any club signing a youth player must play the club who they signed the player from 75% of any future transfer fee. This should adequately compensate the club who have trained the player.
- Finally bring in the rule about homegrown players, but change the rule, saying that they must have lived for at least 8 years with a 30-mile radius of the club to count as homegrown. This should stop clubs passing off players that have been imported from abroad as homegrown.
When Jean-Marc Bosman won his ruling it showed that the regulations that govern football couldn’t stand up in a court of law. If clubs that get punished for misconduct in the transfer of youth players challenge these rulings in court, they will probably win but they might do it at the expense of the game, as we know it. All clubs should accept and adhere to the rules and stop pillaging smaller clubs for youth players.