English Premier League side Chelsea has been banned by world governing body FIFA from signing players for the next two transfer windows.
The sanction comes after the club was found to have breached FIFA regulations on the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.
The punishment applies to the registration of new players on both a national and international level, meaning that Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, will be unable to strengthen their squad until June 2020.
FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee found the club guilty of 29 breaches of Article 19, which relates to violations regarding the registration of minors at the London outfit’s academy.
The statement from FIFA also declared that Chelsea “committed several other infringements relating to registration requirements for players.”
It added that the club had “breached article 18bis of the Regulations in connection with two agreements it concluded concerning minors and which allowed it to influence other clubs in transfer-related matters.”
Chelsea’s women’s and futsal teams are not covered by the ban, while it also does not affect the release of players from their contracts. When the next registration period opens, Chelsea will also be able to bring back players away from the club on loan.
The Stamford Bridge club currently has 41 players away from Chelsea on loan deals.
The club has also been fined $599,535 and has been given 90 days to regularize the situation of the minor players concerned.
Chelsea retain the right to appeal the sanctions, both to FIFA and to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
“Chelsea FC categorically refutes the findings of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and will therefore be appealing the decision,” said the Premier League club.
“Initially, Chelsea FC was charged under Articles 19.1 and 19.3 in relation to 92 players. We welcome the fact that FIFA has accepted that there was no breach in relation to 63 of these players, but the club is extremely disappointed that FIFA has not accepted the club’s submissions in relation to the remaining 29 players.
Chelsea is not the first club to fall foul of FIFA’s regulations surrounding the transfer of minors. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have all been sanctioned in recent years.
The English Football Association (FA) was also found to have breached the rules in connection with minors. It was fined $509,630 and given a period of six months to address the situation concerning the international transfer and first registration of minors in football.
An FA spokesperson said: “The FA notes the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee published today. The FA has cooperated fully with FIFA’s investigations, although we have raised some concerns with FIFA regarding its disciplinary processes.
“The FA intends to appeal the decision. We will however continue to work with FIFA and Chelsea in a constructive manner to address the issues which are raised by this case.
“As this is an ongoing legal process it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”