MADRID (AFP) - Barcelona are to appeal a one-year ban on signing players imposed by Fifa for a "serious" breach of rules in the signing under-age players, the club announced on Wednesday.
The sanction is related to the signing of 10 players under the age of 18 between 2009 and 2013 with football's governing body also finding the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) guilty of improper practice.
"FC Barcelona will present an appeal to Fifa and if need be will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)," the club said in a statement released on their website.
"The club will also request precautionary measures that will preserve the rights of the club, including the incorporation of players during transfer windows." The appeal will have to be lodged with Fifa's Appeal Committee within three days and the club could take the case to CAS as a final measure.
The ban is a new blow to the image of Europe's most successful club of the 21st Century following alleged tax evasion in its signing of star Brazilian Neymar.
However, in a lengthy statement released on their website, the club strictly defended the way in which they coach and educate players under the age of 18 who come to the club.
Under Fifa's rules a player under the age of 18 can only be transferred if the player's parents have moved country; the move takes place within the European Union if a player is aged between 16 and 18; or the player's home is less than 50 kilometres from the national border being crossed.
And Barcelona argued that Fifa have ignored the educational benefits enjoyed by players at their world famous La Masia academy.
"The La Masia model incorporates training and educational programmes, accommodation, nutrition, medical assistance, attention to the needs of minors and plans for sporting development.
"FC Barcelona forms people before sportsmen, something that has not been considered by Fifa, which has applied a sanction ignoring the educative function of our training programme." If upheld, the ban would have serious consequences for Barcelona as they would not be able to replace veterans Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol who have said they will leave the club in June.
In February last year Fifa banned six of the 10 players in question; Lee Seung-Woo, Paik Seung-Ho and Jang Gyeol-Hee from South Korea, Patrice Sousia of Cameroon, France's Theo Chendri and Bobby Adekanye, a Nigerian-Dutch teenager from competing in competitive games.
As well as the transfer ban, which will effectively last 14 months, Fifa fined Barcelona 450,000 Swiss francs, (S$642,000).
The Spanish champions were given 90 days to regularise the situation of all 10 minor players concerned.
Fifa fined the RFEF 500,000 Swiss francs for their role in the under-age player affair and gave them one year to modify rules concerning international transfers of minors.