Everton have been banned from signing players aged 10 to 18 for two years and fined £500,000 after breaking the Premier League’s tapping up rules.

The Merseyside club has issued a statement in which they have apologised to the Premier League and accepted their punishment.

The Times claims Everton were found guilty of tapping up a Cardiff City schoolboy, who now plays for Manchester United.

It is believed the Toffees launched an internal investigation in September and subsequently suspended their head of academy recruitment, Martin Waldron.

The case is said to have come about following an anonymous tip-off to the Premier League. Everton did not follow up their interest in the young player.

They will now be unable to sign players between the ages of 10 and 18 for a full two years.

According to the Times, Everton’s said in a statement: “Everton has worked alongside the Premier League over recent weeks to conduct a full and thorough investigation into allegations relating to our academy’s operational methods in some areas of player recruitment.

“In short, we are extremely disappointed with some of the practices we have found which are not in line with our values and not acceptable to Everton Football club. Accordingly, we have accepted the penalties imposed on us by the Premier League and have given them our strongest apologies.

“We have already commenced a full review of our academy operations and are committed to ensuring that issues like this do not happen again at Everton.”

A statement from the Premier League in the same report reads: “The Premier League received evidence alleging that Everton academy staff offered inducements to a player and his family to encourage the player to register with the club. When presented with this information, Everton immediately admitted the allegations and set up its own internal inquiry which established that similar misconduct had occurred in relation to six other Academy players.

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“In certain cases, it was found that the club provided false information to the league when questions had previously been raised about the circumstances in which academy players registered with the club. The club will [as well as the fine and ban] also pay additional compensation payments to the former clubs of two academy players.”

Liverpool and Manchester City have also been hit with suspensions and fines for similar offences in recent years, but Everton’s punishment is far more severe.

Marco Silva’s side face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this weekend.

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