FIFA has banned Serie A club Spezia from four transfer windows, starting in January next year, after breaching rules by signing Nigerian minors.
Spezia, who competed in the Italian top flight for the first time last season, were also fined 500,000 Swiss francs ($543,832) for the offence.
Among the eight Nigerian players signed by the club are Theophilus Awua, a midfielder and David Okereke, a centre forward.
Both, along with Umar Sadique joined Spezia in 2016.
Suleiman Abdullahi, a striker joined in 2018, while Ezekiel Henty and Osarimen Ebagua were recruited in 2013.
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee found that Spezia Calcio had breached article 19 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) by bringing several Nigerian minors into Italy using a scheme aimed at circumventing the aforesaid RSTP article as well as national immigration law,” a FIFA statement read.
“The protection of minors is a key objective of the regulatory framework governing the football transfer system.”
Former Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta was appointed Spezia manager last week, while the club were bought by U.S. investors in February.
The new owners said they would appeal the decision.
“We are surprised by FIFA’s decision to impose this heavy transfer ban,” Spezia president Philip Raymond Platek Junior said in a statement on Friday.
“The new ownership had no role in the alleged transgressions. We will appeal and take appropriate measures to ensure that our team remains competitive in the years to come.”
The alleged irregularities occurred between 2013 and 2018.
It is not the first time FIFA has issued such a ban.
In 2019, FIFA banned Chelsea from two transfer windows after the Premier League club were found to have breached article 19 in the case of 29 minor players.
Spezia Calcio received notification today of FIFA’s decision to apply a transfer ban for four transfer windows starting in January 2022.
The Club is surprised and extremely disappointed by this ruling and would like to clarify the following:
– The alleged irregularities attributed to Spezia Calcio occurred in the period between 2013 and 2018, therefore under the previous administration of the club.
– All members of the former property and the management team belonging to it currently do not hold positions of responsibility within the club.
– When the new owner group acquired Spezia Calcio, in February 2021, the FIFA survey was not adequately exposed. The Club was only notified in April and took immediate action to conduct an internal audit of these allegations, to prove that the irregularities did not concern the current ownership.
– The Club finds that the sanction is excessively harsh, a sanction that punishes a new administration that has not had any involvement in the alleged irregularities contested;
– The Club intends to take legal action to appeal this ruling and clearly demonstrate that there is no correlation between the current ownership and this case, of which Spezia Calcio is accused.
– The penalty will not affect the current summer transfer window, so the club is free to operate without restrictions.
– The Club respects the importance of the work undertaken by FIFA in relation to the protection of minors and will cooperate fully in any further investigation that may be launched.
Spezia Calcio president Philip Raymond Platek Jr said: ” We are surprised by FIFA’s decision to impose this heavy transfer ban on our club.
“The new ownership has played no role in the alleged transgressions charged to Spezia Calcio and strongly condemns any system. which includes the illegal transfer of minors.
“I cannot comment further on the matter due to the ongoing legal proceedings, but I would like to reassure our fans, stating that we will appeal this ruling and will take appropriate measures to ensure that our team remains competitive in the years to come “.