By Kris Voakes
Barcelona seem to have no hope of escaping punishment for their breach of Fifa regulations, a leading sports lawyer has told Goal.
The Blaugrana were this week handed a two-window transfer ban for having failed to meet the requirements of article 19 of the world governing body's laws regarding the transfer of minors from outside the European Union.
And despite a vehement defence of their practices for promoting education and development at La Masia in an initial club statement, the Catalan outift's failure to present their case to Fifa before the transfers of 10 youngsters leaves them fighting a losing battle legally, according to Ian Lynam, the Head of Sports Law at Charles Russell law firm.
"Their statement doesn't actually deny that they've breached regulation 19 so I don't think their defence is going to be that they are innocent," Lynam told Goal. "It is more likely that they will argue that the sanction is disproportionate and they will try to use the grounds that they have set out as mitigating factors as to why the sanction is too high."
Article 19 was amended in 2010 to include a stipulation that clubs must seek Fifa approval for the transfer of any non-EU player under the age of 18. But Barca are accused of failing to do so ahead of signing 10 youngsters over recent years, and Lynam believes that the club have committed an indisputable breach of the governing body's laws.
"It is no longer enough for Barcelona to prove that the parents of the players were moving for non-footballing rasons," added Lynam. "They also didn't comply with article 19 by going to Fifa and getting approval to sign these young players. Barcelona's defence is how 'we look after these players' but it doesn't matter under the current regime because you have to have gone to Fifa and sought their permission.
"Is it an open and shut case? Yes, I think so. It appears from their statement that they're not actually denying it, so it's just a case of exactly what the sanction should be."
Barcelona's is not the first case brought by Fifa relating to article 19, with Cadiz in 2005 and FC Midtjylland in 2008 having both seen appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) thrown out over the past decade, but Barca's is the first notable breach under the redrawn regulation.
The Catalans have 90 days to lodge an official appeal with Fifa, after which the case would be heard by CAS. The two-window ban against the club would therefore be suspended until a final decision be made.