BARCELONA (AP) – FIFA banned Barcelona from signing any players for one year on Wednesday because of repeated transfer rules violations.
The sanction, which covers the summer and January transfer windows, followed an investigation into the Spanish champion’s signing of players under age 18 from 2009-13.
FIFA also fined Barcelona $509,000 after discovering the signing of 10 unnamed players breached its rules covering the protection of minors. Barcelona has 90 days “to regularize the situation of all minor players concerned.”
The punishment prevents Barcelona from signing players until the summer of 2015 and leaves in limbo recent agreements with Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Croatian teenager Alen Halilovic to join the club in July.
The Spanish champion hasn’t commented on the sanctions and can appeal.
FIFA found the Spanish Football Federation also violated the rules covering the registration of minors and issued a fine of $565,500.
FIFA stressed the “interest in protecting the appropriate and healthy development of a minor as a whole must prevail over purely sporting interests.”
“The disciplinary committee emphasized that the protection of minors in the context of international transfers is an important social and legal issue that concerns all stakeholders in football,” FIFA said in a statement. “Above all, the committee highlighted that while international transfers might, in specific cases, be favorable to a young player’s sporting career, they are very likely to be contrary to the best interests of the player as a minor.”
Spanish reports highlighted the signing of South Korea player Lee Seung Woo as one of the principle infractions, with FIFA having already warned the Catalan club about the 16-year-old’s inclusion in youth matches.
The club potentially needs to sign a replacement goalkeeper, with Victor Valdes out of contract and ruled out for seven months this week following knee surgery.
The Catalan soccer institution is owned by its members and prides itself as being “more than a club.” It’s also dealing with fallout from last year’s signing of the 22-year-old Neymar.
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell, who abruptly quit in January, is challenging a lawsuit that alleges he misappropriated funds by hiding the real cost of Neymar’s signing from Brazilian club Santos.
In February, Barcelona $18.6 million to Spanish tax authorities to cover any potential irregularities of the transfer, while maintaining its innocence of fraud charges.