FIFA under-18 regulations carry no weight

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

For all FIFA’s efforts to control the under-18 movement of players, does a transfer ban and fine really send a just message to teams?

While some young men do make it big after being picked up by clubs, many others find themselves in a bad spot if they cannot cut the mustard.

“In the past, the trafficking of young players to clubs, mainly in Europe, by unscrupulous persons led to some minors, whose talent may not have met the expectations of the respective clubs, being virtually abandoned on the streets in foreign countries,” per a BBC report.

European clubs buy young players from around the world with little restriction in the hope of unearthing a potential future star. The only risk in this endeavor is the cost to develop the player further, along with any compensation packages offered.

FIFA have put rules in place that control some of the earlier freedoms of movement, with most under-18 transfers actually requiring confirmation and acceptance by FIFA before it can go ahead. The reality is clubs still break regulations, and these transfer bans and fines are part of FIFA’s attempt to retroactively govern and deter future actions.

None of this means FIFA are making a stand. It’s just an afterthought. Many of the disciplinary actions will be rescinded through appeal, altering fines or be avoided altogether via loopholes.

In 2014 Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in world football, was hit with a two-year transfer ban. Yet it somehow continued to buy Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal during the 2015 transfer window. The loophole was that these players couldn’t play for Barcelona until the ban was over.

This means a club can keep those under-18s and continue to sign players.

So what lesson is learned? Paying a paltry fine, such as the £249,000 (Real Madrid) paid or even the £699,000 (Atletico Madrid) doled out, compared to the potential profit from finding a future superstar, isn’t an deterrent.

If FIFA really felt children were being abandoned by clubs, then the penalty would be much stronger.

A transfer ban with easily circumvented loopholes and a small fine is nothing to deter the under-18 market being a continued resource for these top clubs, especially as the transfer market continues to spiral out of control.

Real and Atletico Madrid are in the process of taking their transfer ban ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Expect further delays, giving them enough time to buy new players during the January transfer window.

Clearly, the current policy is toothless and nothing more than a sham.