The protection of minors has been a significant concern for FIFA since 2001 when, in cooperation with the European Commission, it introduced in its regulations the prohibition of transfer for underage players in football. Since then, Article 19 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (FIFA RSTP) has been revised on multiple occasions, and some exceptions to the general rule have been put in place, but the main prohibition still stands. Analyzing FIFA’s decisions related to minors, especially when they are challenged before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), provides valuable insights. In this respect, it is interesting to observe that a considerable number of FIFA’s disciplinary decisions related to Article 19 FIFA RSTP involving clubs are - for some reason - subsequently amended in CAS awards. This recurring trend shows a noticeable discrepancy between FIFA and CAS when it comes to the interpretation of the rules involving the protection of minors. Precisely, these conflicting interpretations of the rules and the different appreciation of the circumstances to impose the appropriate sanctions will be part of the analysis presented in this article.
In February 2018, the Italian police initiated an investigation into potential illegal doping at the professional football club Spezia Calcio. While no doping charges emerged from the inquiry, a parallel violation concerning the breach of Italian immigration laws was identified. Central to this discovery was Spezia Calcio’s alleged involvement in a scheme called the “Nigeria System”, dating back to 2013. The scheme’s objective was to transfer young Nigerian football talents to Italy. Various methods, including fictitious school registrations, were employed to secure residence permits for these players.
Following these revelations, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee held that Spezia Calcio had breached Article 19
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