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All you need to know about the transfer ban on Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid

How FIFA's transfer ban may (or may not) affect the Madrid clubs.

The clubs were found to be in breach of Article 19 of FIFA’s transfer regulations.

On Thursday, FIFA announced that both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid had been given transfer bans. This means that they cannot sign (register) new players over the course of the summer and next winter transfer windows. They are still eligible to sign players over the course of the existing window.

This punishment was imposed on the two clubs as the result of a year-long investigation into their transfer dealings. Atletico were fined 900,000 Swiss francs (£622,000) while Real were told to pay 360,000 (£249,000).

The statement from FIFA read: “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned Spanish clubs Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid for breaches relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.”

Essentially, the reasons behind the ban are identical to the reasons for Barcelona’s one-year transfer ban in that FIFA found irregularities in the transfer and registration of players under the age of 18. As things stand, both Madrid clubs will be unaffected by the ban for the existing transfer window, but will be unable to sign players in either the summer transfer window or the next winter transfer window as well.

Technically, the imposition of the ban does not prevent the purchase of players, as the sanctions imposed by the ban are only on the registration of players. This means that either club could enter into an agreement with any other club to purchase a player, but have him eligible to play for them only after the conclusion of the ban. This approach is similar to what Barcelona did with the signing of Arda Turan.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t affect the release of players, nor the women’s or futsal teams of either club.

So what exactly are the reasons for the ban?

The clubs were found to be in breach of Article 19 of FIFA’s transfer regulations, which state that transfers of under-18 players can only happen if one of the following three conditions is met:

1) Both the player’s parents have moved to the city where the new club is based and have made the move for reasons not related to the transfer. 

2) The transfer is between two European clubs and the player is over 16. 

3) If a player lives 50 km from the border of the country he is moving to and the club is also 50km from the same border.

They were also found to be in violation of Article 5 (on registration of players) and Article 9 (on the requirement for an international transfer certificate for each signing). 

The FIFA investigation concluded that Real Madrid had been involved in these sorts of activities from 2005-2014 while Atletico have been found to have been engaged in it from 2007-2014. The two clubs between them are believed to have signed more than 60 under-18 players over this time frame.

Bizarrely, the children of current Real Madrid coach and legend Zinedine Zidane are also believed to be amongst the player registrations that are in contravention of FIFA guidelines (made even more surprising by the fact that they have been living in Madrid since 2001).

What options do the two clubs have?

Both clubs can choose to appeal the ruling, or accept it in totality. Atletico have already said that they will appeal the ruling, and Real are likely to follow suit.  The first appeal would lie to FIFA and would seek special consideration to sign players next summer because the result of their appeal could come just a few weeks before the end of the season leaving them in dire straits regarding the state of their squad for the next season.

Based on the precedent set by the Barcelona episode, FIFA is likely to reject their appeals. The clubs would then have the option of appealing to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS). The CAS decision is likely to be made towards the beginning of the summer transfer window and it is possible based on the Barcelona precedent that one window is granted to them to sort the squad out.

During the appeals process, the clubs would be able to sign and register players while the matter is being heard by CAS. Barcelona used this technicality of procedure to sign Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic after the initial imposition of their ban. Both players were key components of their subsequent treble-winning season.  It is very likely that both the Madrid clubs will adopt this approach.

The other option for the clubs (which is very unlikely) is for them to accept the decision without an appeal and look to their youth teams/loanees to bolster the squad for the next year or so. While both clubs no doubt have fantastic talent in both their youth squads as well as players on loan, this approach would seem less than ideal without making the attempt to appeal FIFA’s ruling.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the current ban does not affect players who are out on loan from either club, as their transfer and registration have already taken place.

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