November 15, 2018 / 8:46 AM / a month ago

Chelsea says cooperating with FIFA over youth transfers probe

(Reuters) - English Premier League club Chelsea has said it is cooperating with a FIFA investigation into possible violations of the global soccer governing body’s rules regarding the signing of foreign players under the age of 18.

Chelsea and four other unidentified Premier League clubs are under investigation by FIFA for the alleged violations and could face transfer bans if found guilty, according to multiple reports in the British media.

French investigative website Mediapart reported on Wednesday that FIFA’s Integrity and Compliance unit would seek to impose a two-year transfer ban on the clubs as well as a fine of 500,000 Swiss francs (382,323 pounds).

Mediapart is one of several media outlets publishing documents obtained by Football Leaks.

The Football Leaks documents were obtained by German publication Der Spiegel and reviewed by Reuters in partnership with European Investigative Collaborations, a network of international media.

Chelsea said in a statement on Wednesday that “the club has fully cooperated with FIFA and has provided comprehensive evidence demonstrating its compliance with the applicable FIFA regulations”.

FIFA’s rules prohibit international transfers of players under the age of 18 unless their parents have emigrated for reasons unconnected to football or both player and club are based within 50 km of a national border.

Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have fallen foul of the rules in the past, with all three serving transfer bans for violations.

FIFA opened its investigation into the English clubs in September last year and said in a statement on Wednesday that it had not yet reached a decision.

“As communicated in September 2017, investigations were opened concerning Chelsea FC as well as other English clubs in relation to potential breaches of the regulations on the status and transfer of players,” FIFA said.

“The proceedings are ongoing and, to date, no decision has been passed by the FIFA judicial bodies. Thus, the clubs are to be presumed innocent unless decided otherwise. No further information can be provided as the cases are ongoing.”

British media, including the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and the Times, reported that Chelsea broke transfer rules governing players under the age of 18 when they signed Burkina Faso forward Bertrand Traore in 2014.

The reports added that Chelsea were also under investigation for signing 14 under-18 players since the signing of Traore.

($1 = 1.0053 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien

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