Barcelona have announced they will appeal against the year-long transfer ban imposed on them by FIFA for breaching the governing body's rules on the transfer of players aged under 18.
The Spanish champions were sanctioned yesterday by FIFA's disciplinary committee for breaking the rules in the case of 10 under-18 players and been punished with a transfer embargo for two transfer windows and a fine of £305,000.
The club confirmed last night that they would be appealing against the ban. A statement read: "The club will lodge an appeal to FIFA and where necessary will submit the appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport."
Court proceedings are unlikely to take place until August, and the transfer embargo would be suspended until the final decision. The sanctions have highlighted the practices of clubs scouring the world and taking children from their home countries in defiance of FIFA's rules. Barcelona have a trio of youth players from South Korea, including much sought-after 15-year-old striker Lee Seung Woo, plus other players from Africa.
FIFA only allows international youth transfers when one of three situations apply: the player's parents have moved country for non-related reasons; the move takes place within the EU if a player is aged between 16 and 18; or the player's home is less than 50 kilometres from the national border being crossed.
The appeal should allow the deals for the Croatian 17-year-old Alen Halilovic and the Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to go through. The Ter Stegen deal is particularly noteworthy given that Victor Valdes, the long-term Barcelona No.1, will depart the club at the end of the season.
The sanctions follow investigations conducted by FIFA's transfer officials into under-18 players who were registered and played in competitions between 2009 and 2013.
A statement read: "The disciplinary committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of 450,000 Swiss francs. Additionally, the club was granted a period of 90 days in which to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned.
"The committee highlighted that while international transfers might, in specific cases, be favourable to a young player's sporting career, they are very likely to be contrary to the best interests of the player as a minor. Young football players are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in a foreign country without the proper controls. This particular fact makes the protection of minors in football by the sport's governing bodies, especially by FIFA, even more important."