This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

FIFA – International transfer of minors
Nilo Effori
21 August 2014

FIFA – International transfer of minors

Yesterday, the FIFA Appeal Committee decided to reject the appeals lodged by Spanish club FC Barcelona (Barcelona) and the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) and to confirm in their entirety the decisions rendered by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee in the respective cases relating to the protection of minors.

The RFEF and Barcelona were initially sanctioned for violating several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of foreign minors within the club. The clubs also violated other regulations regarding the registration and participation of certain players in national competitions.

The protection of minors is one of the key principles included in the 2001 agreement between FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission. The main provision regarding the protection of minors in the context of international transfers is Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (the “RSTP”).  According to Article 19, the international transfer of players is only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.  According to Article 19.2 of the RSTP, there are only three exceptions to this rule.

a) The player’s parents move to the country in which the new club is located for reasons not linked to football.

b) The transfer takes place within the territory of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) and the player is aged between 16 and 18.

In this case, the new club must fulfil the following minimum obligations:

i. It shall provide the player with an adequate football education and/or training in line with the highest national standards.

ii. It shall guarantee the player an academic and/or school and/or vocational education and/or training, in addition to his football education and/or training, which will allow the player to pursue a career other than football should he cease playing professional football.

iii. It shall make all necessary arrangements to ensure that the player is looked after in the best possible way (optimum living standards with a host family or in club accommodation, appointment of a mentor at the club, etc.).

iv. It shall, on registration of such a player, provide the relevant association with proof that it is complying with the aforementioned obligations.

c) The player lives no further than 50km from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered in the neighbouring association is also within 50km of that border. The maximum distance between the player’s domicile and the club’s headquarters shall be 100km. In such cases, the player must continue to live at home and the two associations concerned must give their explicit consent.

Therefore, if the transfer of a minor does not fall into one of the exceptions above, which apparently on this occasion it did not, FIFA will inevitably impose sanctions relating to the breach of this rule.  In this respect, FIFA's Disciplinary Committee emphasised that the protection of minors in the context of international transfers is an important social and legal issue.

As a consequence of this breach, Barcelona is to serve a transfer ban which will prevent the club from registering any players at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods. This will commence with the next registration period in January 2015, as the appeal lodged by Barcelona resulted in the chairman of the FIFA Appeal Committee granting that the effects of the punishment be delayed. Barcelona has also been ordered to pay a fine of CHF 450,000 (around £297,380) and been given a period of 90 days from 20 August in which to normalise the situation of all minor players concerned.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Federation (RFEF) has been ordered to pay a fine of CHF 500,000 (around £330,380) and granted a period of one year in which to normalise their regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football.