LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday that he supports FIFA’s decision to hand Barcelona a year-long transfer ban for breaching rules on signing under-age players.
The Spanish champions were sanctioned on Wednesday by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for breaking regulations in the cases of 10 players aged under 18 who were signed between 2009 and 2013.
They were banned from signing players in either of the next two transfer windows and fined 450,000 Swiss francs, (369,000 euros, $509,000), although the club say they will appeal to FIFA and, if necessary, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“Certainly they have not respected the rules,” said Wenger, who believes the whole system needs reviewing for the good of the game.
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 (31 miles) from the national border being crossed.
“The rule is quite simple, you cannot move the players before the age of 16 unless their parents move for professional reasons, so that of course creates a bit of a debate – do the parents move for professional reasons or not?
“In this case, FIFA has judged the parents moved for football reasons and that is why they were banned because they have not respected the rules.”
Wenger added: “I think the rules need to be changed, because there is more competition now to get the young players, and you will always be in a debate as to why did the parents move?
“There is more money in the game, so the parents will be tempted to give their young boys a chance to have a great career.
“What is not right is that the children move under the age of 16 without their parents. That is absolutely not right.
“Do they have to change the rules so you allow children to move with their parents if the club takes care of the parents? Maybe we have to go that way because it happens.”
Arsenal were themselves once criticised by Barcelona for taking on Cesc Fabregas as a youngster after the player had initially been at their academy.
Barcelona, who brought Lionel Messi from Argentina when he was just 11, argued that FIFA have ignored the educational benefits enjoyed by players at their world famous La Masia academy.
If upheld, the ban would have serious consequences for the Catalans as they would not be able to replace veterans Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol, who have said they will leave the club in June.