(Reuters) – Barcelona have been given a transfer ban for two consecutive windows and fined 450,000 Swiss francs ($509,400) for breaching rules on the international transfer of foreign under-18 players, FIFA said on Wednesday.
The Spanish federation (RFEF) was fined 500,000 Swiss francs after soccer’s world governing body found it had also breached rules on the transfer of minors, FIFA added in a statement.
The decision by FIFA’s disciplinary committee means the Spanish champions will be barred from taking part in the transfer market until the end of the 2014/15 season.
FIFA described the infringements, which occurred between 2009 and 2013, as “serious” and said Barca had been given 90 days to regularize the situation of the players involved.
The RFEF was also given one year to “regularize their regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football.”
FIFA said: “The RFEF and FC Barcelona were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of non-Spanish minors with the club.”
“Barcelona has been found to be in breach of… the regulations in the case of ten minor players and to have committed several other concurrent infringements in the context of other players,” it added.
A Barcelona spokesman said the club were evaluating the decision and would not make any further comment, including on whether they intended to appeal.
The sanctions are another blow to Barcelona’s reputation following the controversy over the transfer of Brazil forward Neymar, whose signing from Santos prompted allegations of misappropriation of funds and tax evasion and resulted in the resignation of the Catalan club’s president Sandro Rosell.
Including a payment of 13.5 million euros to the Spanish treasury after fraud charges were laid against the club, the Brazil forward ended up costing just under 100 million euros ($137.94 million).
In March, the club’s vice-president Javier Faus said Barcelona would have up to 60 million euros to spend on new players in the close season.
“The disciplinary committee underlined that FIFA takes the protection of minors in football very seriously,” said soccer’s world governing body.
“The protection of minors is one of the key principles included in the agreement concluded between FIFA, (European governing body) UEFA and the European Commission in 2001.
“The disciplinary committee acknowledged that 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.”
FIFA’s rules ban the international transfer of under-18 players except in limited circumstances which must be evaluated by its Players’ Status Committee.
“The protection of minors in the context of international transfers is an important social and legal issue that concerns all stakeholders in football,” it said.
“Above all, the disciplinary 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.”
FIFA said its investigations were conducted with the help of its electronic transfer matching system.