LONDON (Reuters) - Champions League contenders Chelsea have been cleared to sign players in the January transfer window after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) halved a transfer ban imposed on the Premier League club last February.
CAS said in a statement that it had also halved Chelsea’s fine to 300,000 Swiss francs (£234,483).
The West London side, last season’s Europa League winners, had been handed a two-window ban by world soccer’s governing body FIFA for breaching rules on the international transfer and registration of players under 18.
Chelsea served one window of the ban in the close season.
In a statement released by the club , Chelsea said they were grateful to CAS "for the diligent approach that it gave this matter".
But they criticised FIFA’s handling of the case, saying they were treated differently to Premier League rivals Manchester City “for reasons that make absolutely no sense to Chelsea”.
The club statement added: “Chelsea respects the importance of the work undertaken by FIFA in relation to the protection of minors and has fully cooperated with FIFA throughout its investigation.
“However, if FIFA continues to impose inconsistent and unequal sanctions on clubs then it will not only undermine the very purpose of the regulations, but it will also bring into doubt the game’s confidence in FIFA being able to appropriately regulate this important area.”
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, who has led the club to fourth in the standings this season with academy players featuring heavily in his lineups, welcomed the CAS decision as it gives the club clarity ahead of the January transfer window.
Chelsea had filed an appeal with CAS in June.
FIFA had declared Chelsea in breach of article 19 of the regulations in the case of 29 minor players after a lengthy investigation into the registration of players at academy level.
FIFA said Chelsea had also breached an article in connection with agreements it concluded concerning minors and which allowed it to influence other clubs in transfer matters.
However, CAS said the breach involved “a significantly smaller number of players.
“The Sole Arbitrator found that CFC (Chelsea) did violate Articles 19.1 (related to the international transfer of minors) and 19.3 (related to the first registration of minors) of the RSTP (Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players),” the statement said.
It added, though, that the arbitrator found only “about a third of the violations” declared by FIFA.
“In addition, the violations of other RSTP rules were found to be less serious than those attributed to Chelsea FC by FIFA,” the statement added.