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CAS uphold appeal, cut transfer ban in half, open January market to Chelsea

Back in business!

Chelsea v Brighton and Hove Albion - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

After nearly a year of legal procedures, and over two years since FIFA first started looking into Chelsea’s transfer irregularities for foreign players under the age of 18 (starting with Bertrand Traoré, presumably), Chelsea’s transfer ban saga is over.

And it’s positive verdict from CAS today, who have upheld Chelsea’s appeal and reduced the ban to just the single transfer window already served over the summer, and also cut the fine in half as well.

The January transfer market is open! Let the buying commence! (Or not, if there is no need. Hopefully we’ve learned that lesson.)

In case you had been living under a rock, here’s a brief recap.

Chelsea (men’s team) were hit with a two-window transfer ban for the grossest violations yet of FIFA’s regulations — 29 infringements of Article 19, plus 2 infringements of Article 18bis — plus a fine of CHF 600k. Alongside those sanctions, the English FA were also hit with a CHF 500k fine and given six months to bring themselves in line with FIFA regulations (suggesting that Chelsea acted in accordance with FA guidelines, but those guidelines did not quite meet FIFA’s rules).

As in previous cases — including most notably the cases of Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid, and Barcelona — Chelsea immediately filed an appeal with FIFA, but contrary to all the previous cases, FIFA did not suspend the ban (no “provisional measures”) during that appeal. Instead, they fast-tracked the appeal itself, and the FIFA Appeals Committee (relatively) swiftly rejected most of it before the season’s end and the start of the summer transfer window — the only thing they changed was that they allowed Chelsea to sign non-foreign players under the age of 16, who do not fall under the scope of Article 19 anyway. (A somewhat ironic outcome.)

As is standard, Chelsea then turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), but in a break with previous appeals, only filed an appeal regarding the ban and did not file for any provisional measures. The suggestion was that we did not want to be accused of a frivolous appeal and risk the extension of the ban. In previous cases, teams appealed their bans precisely to get around the ban itself and give themselves a transfer window to set up and mitigate the punishment. FIFA eventually got wise to this obvious ploy, and Chelsea were the lucky firsts to have to deal with this new paradigm.

Chelsea basically filed on principle and the vague hope that CAS may yet cut the ban in half and allow the club to conduct business in the winter transfer window. As it turns out, that was a sound plan, and combined with the better than expected returns from Lampard’s Youth Revolution, sets the club up very nicely for the second half of the season and going into next summer (January really not the best time to do business after all).

If you want to more detail, I highly recommend reading this excellent overview by Despina Mavromati and our good friend Jake Cohen over at Law In Sport.

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