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FIFA

Barça slapped with shock transfer ban

Fifa on Wednesday banned Spanish giants Barcelona from buying or selling players for the next two transfer windows for "serious" breaches of rules on under-age players.

Barça slapped with shock transfer ban
The dramatic sanction follows an investigation last year by Fifa. Photo: Quique García/AFP

Fifa's Disciplinary Committee found Barcelona and the Spanish Football Association (RFEF) guilty of making or allowing illegal deals.

As well as the transfer ban, which will effectively last one year, FIFA fined Barcelona 450,000 Swiss francs, (369,000 euros, $509,000).

Barcelona were given 90 days to regularise the situation of all 10 minor players concerned.

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.

Fifa fined the Spanish federation 500,000 Swiss francs for their role in the under-age player affair and given one year to modify rules concerning international transfers of minors.

"The Disciplinary Committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods," a Fifa statement announced.

The dramatic sanction follows an investigation last year by Fifa.

The world body looked at cases involving players signed by Barcelona between 2009 and 2013.

International rules state that a player has to be at least 18 to be transferred, unless the player falls into one of three specific cases.

Fifa found the club and the Spanish federation guilty of illegal deals involving "the international transfer and first registration of non-Spanish minors with the club".

The dates of the Spanish transfer windows covered by Wednesday's punishment are July 1-August 31 for the pre-season window and January 1-February 1 for the mid-season window.

Barcelona were caught out by Fifa's web-based Transfer Matching System which became mandatory for all international transfers of professional male footballers in October 2010.

Fifa said it took the protection of minors in football "very seriously", and warned that "young football players are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in a foreign country without the proper controls".

The sanction came less than 24 hours after Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Barca's goal was scored by Neymar, whose scandal-mired transfer triggered the downfall of Barca president Sandro Rosell and saw the club indicted for an alleged tax fraud of 13.5 million euros.

Barca have protested their innocence throughout the Neymar inquiry by a Spanish judge.

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CORRUPTION

Barçagate: Police raid FC Barcelona offices and arrest former president

Police raided the offices of FC Barcelona on Monday, carrying out several arrests just six days ahead of the club's presidential elections, a Catalan regional police spokesman told AFP.

Barçagate: Police raid FC Barcelona offices and arrest former president
Barcelona's former president Josep Maria Bartomeu is among the arrested. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Spain's Cadena Ser radio said one of those arrested was former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October, along with CEO Oscar Grau and the club's head of legal services.

But the police refused to confirm names, saying only “arrests are taking place” and adding that the operation was being run by officers from the financial crimes unit.

“We are in the process of carrying out an operation right now with agents of the financial crimes unit,” the police spokesman told AFP.

According to reports in the Spanish media, the operation is linked to last year's investigation into the 'BarçaGate' scandal, which saw the club deny hiring a company to criticise current and former players on social media to improve the image of the then-president Bartomeu.

Cadena Ser said Barca paid €1 million in six separate invoices to the company I3 Ventures, with whom the club have since cut ties.

Bartomeu resigned in October, after mounting pressure following months of controversy and a dramatic decline in performances on the pitch.

His successor is due to be elected on Sunday, when club members will choose between the final three candidates, Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font.

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