Editor’s note: This
report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and
European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are
invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to
add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have
The Russian State Doping Scandal and the
crisis of the World Anti-Doping System
doping and the state of the Anti-Doping System has been the dominant international
sports law story in November and December. This is mainly due to the release of
of the McLaren’s investigation on 9 December 2016. The
outcome of McLaren’s work showed a “well-oiled systemic cheating scheme” that
reached to the highest level of Russian sports and government, involving the striking
figure of 30 sports and more than 1000 athletes in doping practices over four
years and two Olympic Games. The report detailed tampering with samples to swap
out athletes’ dirty urine with clean urine.More...
This is the second and final part of the ‘Real Madrid Saga’. Where the first part outlined the background of the case and
the role played by the Spanish national courts, the second part focuses on the
EU Commission’s recovery decision of 4 July 2016 and dissects the arguments advanced by the Commission to reach it. As
will be shown, the most important question the Commission had to answer was
whether the settlement agreement of 29 July 2011
between the Council of Madrid and Real Madrid constituted a selective economic advantage
for Real Madrid in the sense of Article 107(1) TFEU. Before
delving into that analysis, the blog will commence with the other pending
question, namely whether the Commission also scrutinized the legality of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel under EU State aid law. By way of
reminder, this operation consisted of Real Madrid receiving from the
municipality the land adjacent to the Bernabéu stadium, while transferring in
return €6.6 million, as well as plots of land in other areas of the city. More...
Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving
professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited.
Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any
news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make
the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case
involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the
European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship
between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending
Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in
decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were
mostly felt by ordinary citizens.
Given that the Real Madrid case
involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality
to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be
very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under
critical scrutiny in recent years. More...
On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the
non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential
corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC
Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions
concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.
Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns
State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in
today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same
impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple.
This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative
of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares,
and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of
the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four
mentioned Spanish clubs.More...
It’s been a long wait, but they’re finally here!
On Monday, the European Commission released its decisions regarding State aid to seven Spanish professional football clubs (Real Madrid on two occasions) and five Dutch professional football clubs. The decisions mark the end of the formal
investigations, which were opened in 2013. The Commission decided as follows:
no State aid to PSV Eindhoven (1); compatible aid to the Dutch clubs FC Den
Bosch, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen and Willem II (2); and incompatible aid granted
to the Spanish football clubs Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, Athletic
Bilbao, Atlético Osasuna, Elche and Hércules (3).
The recovery decisions in particular are truly historic.
The rules on State aid have existed since the foundation of the European
Economic Community in 1958, but it is the very first time
that professional football clubs have been ordered to repay aid received from
(local) public authorities.
In a way, these decisions complete a development set in motion with the Walrave
and Koch ruling of 1974, where
the CJEU held that professional sporting activity, and therefore also football,
is subject to EU law. The landmark Bosman case of 1995 proved to be of great significance as
regards free movement of (professional) athletes and the Meca-Medina case of 2006 settled that EU competition rules were
equally applicable to the regulatory activity of sport. The fact that the first
ever State aid recovery decision concerns major clubs like Real Madrid, FC
Barcelona and Valencia, give the decisions extra bite. Therefore, this blog
post will focus primarily on the negative/recovery decisions,
their consequences and the legal remedies available to the parties involved.
Editor’s note: Our first innovation for the
year 2016 will be a monthly report compiling relevant news, events and materials
on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided
on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete
this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important
cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.
The world of professional sport has been making
headlines for the wrong reasons in January. Football’s governing body FIFA is
in such a complete governance and corruption mess that one wonders whether a
new President (chosen on 26 February)
will solve anything. More recently, however, it is the turn of the athletics
governing body, IAAF, to undergo “the walk of shame”. On 14 January the WADA
Independent Commission released its second report into doping in international
The selling of media rights is currently a hot
topic in European football. Last week, the English Premier League cashed in
around 7 billion Euros for the sale of its live domestic media rights (2016 to
2019) – once again a 70 percent increase in comparison to the previous tender. This
means that even the bottom club in the Premier League will receive
approximately €130 million while the champions can expect well over €200
million per season.
The Premier League’s new deal has already led
the President of the Spanish National Professional Football League (LNFP),
Javier Tebas, to express his concerns that this could see La Liga lose its position as one of Europe’s leading leagues. He reiterated
that establishing a centralised sales model in Spain is of utmost importance,
if not long overdue.
Concrete plans to reintroduce a system of joint
selling for the media rights of the Primera
División, Segunda División A, and la
Copa del Rey by means of a Royal Decree were already announced two years
ago. The road has surely been long and bumpy. The draft Decree is finally on
the table, but now it misses political approval. All the parties involved are
blaming each other for the current failure: the LNFP blames the Sport
Governmental Council for Sport (CSD) for not taking the lead; the Spanish Football
Federation (RFEF) is arguing that the Federation and non-professional
football entities should receive more money and that it should have a stronger
say in the matter in accordance with the FIFA Statutes; and there are widespread rumours that the two big earners, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, are actively
lobbying to prevent the Royal Decree of actually being adopted.
To keep the soap opera drama flowing, on 30 December 2014, FASFE (an
organisation consisting of groups of fans, club members, and minority
shareholders of several Spanish professional football clubs) and the
International Soccer Centre (a movement that aims to obtain more balanced and
transparent football and basketball competitions in Spain) filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission against the LNFP. They
argue that the current system of individual selling of LNFP media rights, with
unequal shares of revenue widening the gap between clubs, violates EU
This is the second part of a blog series on
the Real Madrid State aid case. In
the previous blog on this case, an outline of all the relevant facts was provided
and I analysed the first criterion of Article 107(1) TFEU, namely the criterion
that an advantage must be conferred upon the recipient for the measure to be
considered State aid. Having determined that Real Madrid has indeed benefited
from the land transactions, the alleged aid measure has to be scrutinized under
the other criteria of Article 107(1): the measure must be granted by a Member State
or through State resources; the aid granted must be selective; and it must
distorts or threatens to distort competition. In continuation, this blog will
also analyze whether the alleged aid measure could be justified and declared
compatible with EU law under Article 107(3) TFEU.More...
This is the
first part of a blog series involving the Real
Madrid State aid case.
Apart from being
favoured by many of
Spain’s most important politicians, there have always been suspicions
surrounding the world’s richest football club regarding possible financial aid by the Madrid City Council. Indeed, in
the late 90’s a terrain qualification change by the Madrid City Council proved to
be tremendously favourable to the king’s club. The change allowed Real Madrid
to sell its old training grounds for a huge sum. Though the exact price for the
grounds remains unknown, Real Madrid was suddenly capable of buying players
like Figo and Zidane for record fees. However, the European Commission, even
though agreeing that an advantage was conferred to the club, simply stated that the new
qualification of the terrain in question does not appear to involve any
transfer of resources by the State and could therefore not be regarded as State
aid within the meaning of article 107 TFEU.
between the club and the Council have been a regularity for the last 25
years. A more recent example concerns an
agreement signed on 29 July 2011 (Convenio29-07-2011.pdf (8MB).