Imagine your a pro sports franchise and you’ve just been told you can’t improve your team over the next 18 months.
And no, this isn’t a post about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
English Premier League power Chelsea was banned from adding new players for two transfer windows after FIFA ruled the club illegally signed a French starlet in 2007. So much for those Franck Ribery and David Villa rumors.
For those unaware, soccer clubs buy and sell players during what is called a transfer window. All business must be conducted during these periods. The first window opens from July 1 to August 31. The second is all 31 days of January. It’s something like a trade deadline.
Two years ago, Chelsea persuaded French youngster Gael Kakuta to sign with the English club. Kakuta’s French team, Lens, filed a complaint with FIFA claiming Kakuta was still under contract with them when Chlesea came calling with all their glitz and glamor.
On Thursday, FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Committee brought the hammer down on the English giants.
“The French club had lodged a claim with FIFA seeking compensation for breach of contract from the player and requesting also sporting sanctions to be imposed on the player and the English club for breach of contract and inducement to break of contract respectively.
The (Dispute Resolution Committee) found that the player had indeed breached a contract signed with the French club. Equally, the DRC deemed it to be established that the English club induced the player to such a breach.”
Ah, “induced.” A word seeped in shady imagery.
A parallel to American sports would be when David Stern took three of Minnesota’s next five first round draft picks after learning about the whole Kevin McHale-Joe Smith secret dealings in 2000.
The French player at the center of this, Kakuta, now 18, is a regular for the Chelsea Reserves. He was the youth team’s top scorer in 2007-08 and was voted the academy’s player of the year. But now he has been banned from playing for four months and been fined roughly $1 million U.S.
“We expected this kind of decision. The player was under contract with us, and they came and stole him away from us,” said Lens president Gervais Martel said. “Chelsea didn’t follow the rules. They contacted the player when he wasn’t even 16 yet, and while he had been contracted to our training group from the age of eight.”
Chelsea can still appeal the decision, as being unable to add players for almost two seasons is an unprecedented blow. Roma was given a season-long transfer ban after bending the rules to sign Phillipe Mexes in 2005. Swiss club Sion FC was also given a transfer ban recently, but nothing to the extent Chelsea was given.
Luckily for the Blues, they are loaded. They have world class stars nearly two-deep at every position. They have the best team Roman Abramovich’s money can buy. But now the Chelski owner will have to spend his $8.5 billion elsewhere.
I think I just heard his girlfriend rejoice in unabashed bliss.