Chelsea deny breach of Fifa transfer rules

Chelsea claim that Bertrand Traore (front) was signed only after his 18th birthday, which meant they did not breach Fifa rules.
Chelsea claim that Bertrand Traore (front) was signed only after his 18th birthday, which meant they did not breach Fifa rules.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Chelsea are confident they did not breach any rules by fielding Bertrand Traore, the Burkina Faso international, as a 16-year-old in friendly fixtures amid fears that the English Premier League champions may have left themselves open to a Fifa transfer ban.

Traore was signed to professional terms by Chelsea on Jan 1, 2014, the day the transfer window opened after his 18th birthday. He had been the subject of an "option agreement" before acquiring his registration which, the club believe, allowed him to feature in what were effectively considered trial games.

He had been at Auxerre's youth academy. The forward was photographed playing in an Under-18 fixture against Arsenal at the Emirates stadium on Oct 23, 2011, when he was only 16, a game the clubs deemed to be "non-competitive".

Fifa rules prohibit the international transfer of an Under-18 player, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid having been handed transfer embargoes for the next two windows for alleged breaches of those regulations.

Both clubs plan to contest the sanctions. Barcelona were banned from conducting transfer business for infringing the same rules in 2014 and have only been permitted to register new players again this month.

It is understood that Fifa are looking into this matter, although there was no confirmation provided.

A Fifa spokesman told the Press Association: "We are not in a position to comment on any investigations that are ongoing so as not to compromise the process."

If a probe is ongoing, this would be the second time Chelsea have been investigated by Fifa over acquiring a youth player. They were banned from signing players for two transfer windows in September 2009 after Gael Kakuta's 2007 move from Lens, but successfully appealed against the ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Chelsea deny breach of Fifa transfer rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe