The earth shakes under Spanish football

Photo: Dan Noctor/Flickr

Real Madrid could be facing sanctions for the trade of under-age players. Photo: Dan Noctor/Flickr


By Lars Andersson
Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Valencia CF and Rayo Vallecano are under investigation for signing ‘illegal’ minors.

In December, the ground shook under FC Barcelona and the world’s most well-known talent factory, La Masia. Now an earthquake is underway in Spanish football. FIFA is investigating Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Valencia CF and Rayo Vallecano for buying minors in breach of FIFA’s ‘Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players’ that clearly state that children under the age of 18 cannot change clubs across continents.

“FIFA is currently gathering all the relevant information and documentation in order to be in a position to properly assess the matter. No formal disciplinary proceedings have been opened at this stage. No further information can be provided for the time-being,” says a spokesperson in FIFA who prefers to be anonymous to Sport Executive.

In Real Madrid, director of institutional relations, Emilio Butragueno, confirms that FIFA has asked for information about 51 under-age footballers –  all signed by the club during the past five years. According to Butragueno the club is ‘absolutely calm’ about its actions.

“We will continue to work with FIFA in every aspect they ask of us. We are absolutely relaxed about the procedure involving Real Madrid,” says Butragueno.

‘Los Blancos’ have also released an official statement denying any wrongdoing – although the club bought the Japanese player Takuhiro Nakai from Tokyo in 2013. He now plays for Real Madrid’s U-12 team.

Atletico de Madrid, Valencia CF and Rayo Vallecano have so far made no comments regarding the cases.

Going on for years
The trade of minors has been going on for years in European football and has grown into a business of significant size – with mainly southern European clubs and anonymous capital funds in tax havens involved. The enormous profits have over the years led to a hunt for increasingly younger football talents in order to achieve sporting success in an increasingly sharp competition – and to minimize costs and maximise profit.

This is why FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS, in December found FC Barcelona to be in breach of Article 19 of ‘FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players’ – and why FIFA is now investigating Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Valencia CF and Rayo Vallecano for buying minors.

The cases have also led FIFA to lower the age limit required for international transfer certificates from 12 to 10 years, taking effect on 1. March 2015, in a move to close the loopholes in the net designed to restrain top football’s trafficking of under-age players.

Unrest in Spain
But in Spain, the explanation of the rules and the enforcement of them are hard to understand. In FC Barcelona, president Josep Maria Bartomeu calls for a change of the rules:

“It’s a problem for FIFA who need to change this article (Article 19 of ‘FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players’, Ed.). I want that FIFA re-configure their laws and that Blatter gives the matter some reflection,” he says to Catalan radio RAC 1.

“Why we got singled out first and not others is a question for FIFA. It all came about an anonymous complaint surrounding the player, Lee. We don’t know who made this official complaint, they don’t want to supply this information. But it’s clear that there are other clubs involved,” says Josep Maria Bartomeu and states:

“I don’t want to see other clubs sanctioned.”

FC Barcelona is sanctioned with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of CHF 450.000. Additionally, the club has been given a period of 90 days in which to regularize the situation of all minor players concerned.

Now Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid, Valencia CF and Rayo Vallecano may look forward to a similar punishment.

More information

See more about children in sport and the trading of minors on our theme page:
  • Mauricio Hernandez, Colombia, 28.01.2015 17:11:
    Why FIFA is lowering the age limit for the kids? So we supposed that the regulations try to protect the kids against trafficking.

* required field

What is three plus seven?

Guidelines for posting
Play the Game promotes an open debate on sport and sports politics and we strongly encourage everyone to participate in the discussions on But please follow these simple guidelines when you write a post:

  1. Please be respectful - even if you disagree strongly with certain viewpoints. Slanderous or profane remarks will not be posted.
  2. Please keep to the subject. Spam or solicitations of any kind will not be posted.

Use of cookies

The website uses cookies to provide a user-friendly and relevant website. Cookies provide information about how the website is being used or support special functions such as Twitter feeds. 

By continuing to use this site, you consent to the use of cookies. You can find out more about our use of cookies and personal data in our privacy policy.