English Premier League club Chelsea have been fined and hit with a ban on registering players until January 2011 by world football's ruling body FIFA as punishment for their role in a contractual dispute.
The sanction follows a decision by FIFA's Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), which met on August 27 to rule on a contractual dispute opposing French first division club Lens to French player Gael Kakuta and London giants Chelsea.
The DRC found Kakuta guilty of breach of contract and also found Chelsea guilty of inducing the player to break his contract with the French club, which had lodged a claim with FIFA seeking compensation and demanding sporting sanctions both on the player and Chelsea.
A statement from FIFA said 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."
As well as paying 780,000 euros in compensation to Lens, for which Chelsea are jointly liable, Kakuta has been sanctioned in accordance with article 17, paragraph 3 and 4 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.
He has been effectively banned from playing in official matches for four months.
The statement added: "Chelsea are banned from registering any new players, either nationally or internationally, for the two next entire and consecutive registration periods following the notification of the present decision.
"Furthermore, the club, Chelsea, have to pay Lens training compensation in the amount of 130,000 euros."
The next transfer window is on January 1-31, 2010 with the next opportunity to register new players after that coming at the end of the current season until August 31 (Europe) and Sept 1 (Britain) 2010.
An offensive midfielder with Chelsea's reserve team, Kakuta is believed to be a future star of the London club's senior side and after the 2007/2008 season was voted 'Scholar of the Year' by staff at the Chelsea Academy.
Described by Chelsea as a "highly-skilled left-footed player who likes taking players on", Kakuta was a part of the France under-17 side that were beaten finalists in the European Championships last May.
Although no provision was made for such a move in FIFA's statement, Chelsea may be expected take any future appeal to the highest sports court in the world, the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
While an unprecedented move on the part of FIFA, the sanction appears to demonstrate the intention of world football's ruling body to clamp down on the practice of negotiating and making deals with players already under contract with another club.
Kakuta was still a Lens player and only 15 years old in June 2007 when he signed a contract with the English club, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Lens immediately complained to FIFA, and the club said Thursday they expected such a decision by FIFA.
Lens president Gervais Martel still feels Chelsea came and "stole" his player, but he believes the decision is fair - and sends a warning shot to rich clubs like Chelsea who break FIFA's rules.
"We expected this kind of decision. The player was under contract with us, and they came and stole him away from us," Martel told AFP.
"Chelsea didn't follow the rules. They contacted the player when he wasn't even 16 (years of age) yet, and while he had been contracted to our training group from the age of eight."
Martel added: "The financial sanction isn't over the top given the nature of the infringement, but it's really quite significant when it comes to not being able to recruit players.
Source: AFP Global Edition