At the start of this season, back in the middle of September, news broke that FIFA had begun an investigation into Chelsea’s youth transfer business of recent years — they can investigate as far back as 10 years, as per their own rules — looking for similar breaches of regulations that had gotten the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid banned from transfers for a window or two.
There were no specifics mentioned beyond that, though it was presumably a follow-up to the stories around Bertrand Traore, who played for Chelsea youth teams on a trial basis in non-competitive matches before officially signing when he turned 18. Without delving too much into conspiracy theory, we can just credit FIFA with doing some due diligence.
Chelsea’s response at the time was “Chelsea FC complies with all FIFA Statutes and Regulations when recruiting players” and that undoubtedly remains the official line as FIFA narrow down and intensify their investigation.
As per a report in the Guardian, FIFA have flagged 25 transfers for potential breaches, which are now being investigated in depth. Chelsea (and the English FA) have been asked to supply information regarding these players, including registration and matches played data. The investigation is “expected to develop quickly over the coming months”.
That all sounds potentially scary, and as we know, can carry the threat of a transfer embargo, but just as back in September, without knowing the exact names of players who are part of the 25 cases, it’s tough to know what to think. We can probably trust that after the Kakuta fiasco (which the club successfully appealed in the end), Chelsea have been more than careful in conducting transfer business for players under 18.
While FIFA rules prevent the transfer of players under the age of 18, inside the European Union, players can move at 16, provided that their new club gives the player not only a football but a general education as well (which is part of the Chelsea Academy setup). This is how, for example, Chelsea have signed several youngsters from the Netherlands over the years, such as Jeffrey Bruma, Nathan Ake, Patrick van Aanholt, or Daishawn Redan last summer, just to name a few. Players can also move at any age if their family moves for reasons unrelated to football (such as Jeremie Boga moving to London at age 11 with his family to join his father, who was already working there).
Chelsea signed several young players this past summer, some in deals that had been agreed in advance (like goalkeepers Karlo Žiger and Nicolas Tie) and others who were more opportunistic acquisitions (like Billy Gilmour, the aforementioned Daishawn Redan, or Ethan Ampadu).