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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
When the Powers That Be come after the English clubs, they certainly don't mess about. Last week UEFA slapped Arsenal's Eduardo with what appeared to be an arbitary two-match ban for diving and last night FIFA weighed in, smashing Chelsea to the floor with an unprecedented two transfer window ban on signing new players. What is it about the consistently successful and commercially dominant English Premier League that they don't like? There was already a feeling in the corridors of Stamford Bridge that there is a conspiracy at the heart of football's governing bodies, a desire to punish the English clubs, and them in particular, for their ostentatious spending. Imagine how victimised they feel now.

This is a heavy, heavy blow to the Blues, more so than it would be to any other club, given that they have a relatively thin squad of players, many of whom are either in or approaching their thirties. Factor in the exodus of players expected in January when the African Nations Cup begins in January and this is more than a body blow. It's a mortal wound. They are doomed to their existing squad until Janaury 2011, forbidden not just to buy players, but even to sign an unattached youngster. Chelsea's failure to develop a succesful youth policy has never looked as disastrous as it will in the cold light of this morning.

Chelsea's crime was to induce the young French starlet Gael Kakuta to breach his contract and it's a crime that they have been accused of before, notably with the controversial transfer of Ashley Cole. But it's a crime that lots of clubs have been accused of. It's a crime that seems to be at the heart of almost every major transfer. David Moyes recently insisted that Joleon Lescott wasn't for sale, but somehow the former Wolves defender got it into his mis-shapen head that Manchester City had a lucrative deal on the table for him. This, of course, is not to suggest that he was tapped up, only to highlight the suspicion that players may be induced to break their contracts, or at least not to honour them with any dilligence, all the time. Just as Arsenal are infuriated that Eduardo will sit on the sidelines while other divers escape punishment, Chelsea will surely demand that these draconian transfer embargos are dished out to everyone else in Europe.

But beyond the immediate shock and awe of FIFA's attack, it is the further ramifications that should terrify Chelsea fans the most. Football agents are not the most philanthrophic of operators. Will they seek to take advantage of this fiasco? What's to stop them approaching the club, proposing a vast increase in wages for their client and threatening to make him leave if their demands aren't met? What leverage will Chelsea have now that they can't replace them?

FIFA have crossed the Rubicon with this punishment. They, like UEFA last week, have set out to flex their muscles and make an example of a rich English team and there's no turning back now. Has Sepp Blatter got the appetite for a long, drawn-out campaign? He'll need it. There's no way that Chelsea will take this lying down.