You will have all heard the news by now that FIFA have suspended Chelsea from making any new signings until January 2011 as punishment for inducing Gael Katuka to breach his contract when he signed for Chelsea back in 2007. Amazingly, they’ve also imposed a fine of over 700,000 euros on Katuka himself (albeit with Chelsea sharing liability).
Let’s be clear about this from the outset – as Chelsea say on the official website, the punishment to this level is entirely without precedent, draconian and completely disproportionate to the offence. European clubs are guilty of far more blatant infringements and yet are somehow beyond the reach of FIFA or UEFA’s judicial hand.
You have to wonder about the strength, leanings and principles of an organisation who decide to hit Chelsea so hard over this but take almost no stand against the disgrace of Spanish racism at football grounds or Italian or German fans’ violence. I can’t help but jump to the conclusion that this is an attempt by FIFA to make an example of a ‘big’ team and doubtless they, like UEFA, are revelling in the chance to take a swipe at their perceived public enemy number one – Chelsea football club – and, more broadly, the perceived threat of a dominant Premier League. As it happens, we posted on the atrocious record and hypocritical behaviour of FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, earlier this summer. It’s worth a read here.
This one will run and run, especially once Chelsea’s appeal is lodged, and I’ll certainly be posting on this again once I’ve calmed down a little. My suspicion is that Chelsea’s appeal will meet with success or some other route will be found around the ruling, but we’ll have to wait a while before the picture becomes any clearer.
Aside from my instant outrage at this absolute disgrace of a decision however, I’m also angry at the club itself. This is just the latest in a string of business and public relations disasters that have followed the club over the last few years, ranging from the clashes with UEFA during the Mourinho days and the Cole tapping up scandal through to the Mikel affair and the club’s poor response to the aftermath of last season’s Barcelona tie. Something is very seriously wrong with the way the club both handles and presents itself.
I made the point back in June that, when Chelsea heard of UEFA’s ruling on the club for failing to control its players after the Barcelona game, it missed an opportunity to start repairing the frayed relationships with the game’s international governing bodies. As it was, an aggressive reaction merely enhanced their view of the club as being the enemy of football - however wrong, misplaced and unfair this might be.
Now we are paying what could be a very, very high price indeed for that reputation. The club need to – and will – fight this punishment as far as is possible, but now is the time to look in the mirror long and hard and start taking steps to ensure this is the last time we’re on the wrong end of UEFA or FIFA’s witch hunts. It doesn’t feel right to pal up with them in the face of their behaviour and ineptitude – but it’s a necessary evil.
Look out for future posts on the potential success of the Chelsea appeal and the potential consequences should the club end up facing the ban in full. Come on Chelsea fans – what do you think?