Unless FIFA has issued a statement that has yet to make it to press, we’re still officially in the dark over the specific reasons FIFA went back and decided that 10 Barcelona minors signed between 2009 and 2013 were ineligible under Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.
The rules state that clubs cannot make international transfers for players under the age of 18 unless they meet at least one of three exemptions (for background on the ruling, read this).
Those with knowledge of the situation, and others who’ve looked at Barca youth players on the books are inferring the obvious: Barcelona not only signed EU players under 16 (breaking one of the three exceptions to the rule), but they’ve also allegedly moved a Korean player’s parents to Spain.
This is interesting particularly as FIFA has an electronic transfer registry (TMS) designed precisely to prevent illegal transfers before they happen. In this case however, it’s clear FIFA did some investigating after the fact and discovered Barcelona were in violation of the rules. There are also rumors that FIFA was tipped off by one or several rival clubs.
There is one of several exceptions to Article 19 that stands out—players 18 or younger can be signed if their parents move to the country for non-football reasons. One might infer this is one area where clubs could easily play fast and loose with the facts even if they submitted to the TMS. The other possibility, and this would be supported by the additional discipline to the Spanish FA, is that Barca were required to submit documentation to the FA, who in turn were supposed to pass it on to FIFA. Perhaps the documents were never submitted.
FIFA didn’t reveal which specific Article 19 provisions they violated, but the Arsenal manager seems confident in the reason (they’re not difficult to infer). From the Guardian:
Wenger believes the whole system needs to be examined for the long-term good of the global game. The Arsenal manager said: “Certainly they have not respected the rules. The rule is quite simple, you cannot move the players before the age of 16 unless their parents move for professional reasons, so that of course creates a bit of a debate – do the parents move for professional reasons or not?
“In this case, Fifa has judged the parents moved for football reasons and that is why they were banned because they have not respected the rules.”
Again, FIFA hasn’t confirmed the specifics. But it raises questions about the effectiveness of FIFA’s international transfer submission service if some clubs are able to get around the rule. If the TMS was established to prevent illegal transfer of minors from happening, then it’s clear in Barca’s case the damage has already been done.