Twenty-four hours have passed since Chelsea announced that after deliberations with FIFA, RC Lens and the CAS, all sanctions placed on the club and Gael Kakuta last September would be lifted with immediate effect. The last day has given us time to reflect on the original decision, how it was reported and reacted to, and yesterday’s developments to bring an end to the decision. Let it be said early – it’s not pretty for just about everyone except Chelsea.
To begin with, it’s necessary to remind ourselves of what the club were charged with:
The French club had lodged a claim with FIFA seeking compensation for breach of contract from the player and requesting also sporting sanctions to be imposed on the player and the English club for breach of contract and inducement to breach of contract respectively.
The DRC found that the player had indeed breached a contract signed with the French club. Equally, the DRC deemed it to be established that the English club induced the player to such a breach.
So the club was to be banned for two transfer windows, and Kakuta banned for some four months. Yet a lot of this didn’t add up. Several points of interest and holes in the case were initially brought up here on CFCnet, and Chelsea too felt themselves entirely confident that their actions were above board, vowing to mount ‘the strongest possible appeal’. It would seem that Gael had no contract at Lens, and therefore was recognised as a free agent under European Law. Whilst he was precluded from joining another club in France, he was absolutely free to sign for a foreign club.
The CAS had ruled on a much similar case regarding Mohamed Sissoko (now of Juventus) moving from Auxerre to Valencia at the age of 17 (turning 18), and with a legal precedent set, Chelsea minds were very much at ease in believing that due process would see their name cleared. FIFA had taken the dictatorial step of finding a party guilty without trial, and seemed to be smugly sitting in Zurich patting themselves on a hatchet job well done. The media, naturally, lapped this up, with the vast majority keen to pen scathing articles, with more ammunition to aim at an already-peppered club. Yet if the likes of you and I can find out the information outlined above through basic research, the question must be asked; why were those who are paid to do so unable or unwilling?
Let’s start with Jason Burt and Rory Smith of the Telegraph, who were quick to point the finger at Frank Arnesen, suggesting he was heading for the chop as a consequence of the action. Spectacularly wrong, Arnesen is currently enjoying his most comfortable spell at the club, seven months into a promotion earned for tabbing some of the fine young talent the club has started to utilise this year, impressing in both blue and out on loan. Still, I’m sure Messrs Burt and Smith are well recompensed for their inaccuracy.
In fact, Smith continued to embarrass himself, whether he was playing devil’s advocate or not. But why stop there? Nick Harris from the Belfast Telegraph, Brian Woolnough from the Daily Star, Hugh McIlVanney at The Times and many, many others were more than keen to stick the knife in and twist it a few times without caring to investigate the issue at hand. The Guardian’s David Conn was also wrong but did admittedly redeem himself with a must-read piece on youth football in England a week later.
I could’ve gone on and on with news website links but the few represent the many. It wasn’t just restricted to those guys, of course, and it would be incredibly remiss of me not to quote Michel Platini’s reaction to the sanctions:
“It’s a FIFA decision but we’re interested in what happens,” the Frenchman told the Sun.
“It is necessary to make rules in the transfer market of young players. I say this not because Chelsea or another team is involved, but the illegal traffic of young players has to be stopped.”
It comes as news to precisely nobody that Platini knows nothing about what comes out of his mouth though.
All the while, Chelsea’s quiet confidence was convincing many of their fans that all would end well. The club casually went through the appeals process, transfers didn’t arrive as predicted in January, and the more educated amongst the fans never feared that the case would amount to anything. And so it would be, as the announcement yesterday would reveal.
Some have claimed that the Blues merely ‘paid off’ Lens, as the CAS referred to a deal struck between the two clubs without their intervention:
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued an award today ratifying the agreement reached by Chelsea FC, Racing Club de Lens and the French football player Gaël Kakuta, putting an end to this arbitration procedure which also involved FIFA. The CAS has noted that, in the agreement, the two clubs and the player have recognised that the contract between the player and RC Lens was not valid.
The simple fact is, Chelsea would have won the case. Lens have quickly realised they had no chance of winning, and it would appear that they, along with FIFA, simply wanted to save face. The Blues had no reason to do so, but perhaps to put this to bed, gain some positive press and keep FIFA happy as part of the 2018 World Cup bid, a deal was struck for the club to pay the French outfit Kakuta’s training fees. This, if you remember, was set at €130,000 in the original FIFA punishment, and is nowhere near the large amounts suggested by our friends in the press.
It is perhaps disappointing Chelsea chose not to take the appeal the entire way and shame FIFA for its practices. Football’s governing body has been unsurprisingly quiet in defeat, with Lens far less vocal than their outcries of September. Quite how such a powerful organisation was allowed to act as it did, finding the club guilty not only incorrectly, but without giving them a chance to defend themselves is astounding. They claimed they had almost irrefutable evidence which has proven to be a lie. Their integrity has been brought into doubt once again, and it surely remains just a matter of time before somebody brings them to account.
Meanwhile, wall to wall coverage of John Terry’s personal life has meant that the final development of one of the most talked about issues of the last six months has received barely more than a whisper in today’s sports coverage, both on television and in print. Perhaps sheepish they got it wrong, everyone seems to be content to fire those bullets mentioned earlier at others in the club.
For Chelsea fans though, yesterday was a good day. A young, talented footballer – perhaps the best the club has seen in its academy ranks for a generation – is able to go about his career free of sanction and punishment. The club are able to act in the transfer market, and whilst it may be questionable ethically as to whether a young adult should be allowed to move, they can hold their head high in the knowledge that no rules were broken.
They, and the fans, have been vindicated.
(Photography provided by Dan Davies)