Serie A club Spezia were on Friday handed a two-year transfer ban for breaching FIFA rules by bringing underage Nigerian players to Italy.
The US-owned outfit will not be allowed to sign new players for four transfer windows starting from next January 2022, along with two northern amateur sides.
FIFA said Spezia brought “several Nigerian minors into Italy using a scheme aimed at circumventing RSTP (FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players) regulation as well as national immigration law”.
They must also pay a fine of 500,000 Swiss francs ($544,000, 460,000 euro), world football’s governing body said.
The same sanctions were also imposed on USD Lavagnese 1919 and Valdivara 5 Terre, “two clubs having played an active role in the aforementioned scheme,” FIFA said.
Spezia won promotion to the Italian top-flight for the first time in 2020 before finishing 15th last season.
The club said they would appeal “an extremely harsh sanction,” pointing out “the alleged irregularities occurred in the period between 2013 and 2018, therefore under the previous administration of the club.”
American businessman Robert Platek bought the club last February and former Italy midfielder Thiago Motta was appointed coach this month.
“We are surprised by FIFA’s decision to impose this heavy transfer ban on our club,” said Platek.
“The new ownership has played no role in the alleged transgressions charged to Spezia Calcio and strongly condemns any system which includes the illegal transfer of minors.
“I cannot comment further on the matter due to the ongoing legal proceedings, but I would like to reassure our fans, stating that we will appeal this ruling and will take appropriate measures to ensure that our team remains competitive in the years to come.”
The ban does not include the current summer transfer window.