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...
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 overlooked.
September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most
notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular
achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar
thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw
highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof
in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story
was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International
Football intermediaries, or agents, are again under attack in the news. For some, corrupt behaviour has become endemic in football’s culture. It is always dangerous to scapegoat a whole profession or a group of
people. Many intermediaries are trying their best to lawfully defend the
interests of their clients, but some are not. The key focus should be on
providing an adequate legal and administrative framework to limit the
opportunities for corrupt behaviour in the profession. This is easier said than
done, however. We are dealing with an intrinsically transnationalized business,
often conducted by intermediaries who are not subjected to the disciplinary
power of federations. Sports governing bodies are lacking the police power and
human resources necessary to force the intermediaries to abide by their private
standards. In this context, this blog aims to review a recent case in front of
the regional court of Frankfurt in Germany, which highlights the legal
challenges facing (and leeway available to) national federations when
regulating the profession. More...
Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the
College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER
International Sports Law Centre.
On 14 July 2016, the
Belgian competition authority refused to grant provisional measures to the
White Star Woluwe Football Club (“The White Star”), which would have allowed it
to compete in the Belgian top football division. The club was refused a licence
to compete in the above mentioned competition first by the Licences Commission
of the national football federation (“Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de
Foootball Association” or “URBSFA”) and then by the Belgian court of
arbitration for sports (“Cour Belge d’Arbitrage pour le Sport” or “CBAS”). The
White Star lodged a complaint to the national competition authority (“NCA”) and
requested provisional measures. The
Belgian competition authority rendered a much-overlooked decision (besides one commentary) in which it seems to
accept the reviewability of an arbitral award’s conformity with EU competition
law (articles 101 and 102 TFEU). More...
This is part two of the blog on the Willem
II and MVV State Aid decisions. Where
part one served as an introduction on the two cases, part two will analyze the
compatibility assessment made by the Commission in two decisions.
compatibility of the aid to MVV and Willem II (re-)assessed
Even though it was the Netherlands’
task to invoke possible grounds of compatibility and to demonstrate that the
conditions for such compatibility were met, the aid granted to both Willem II
and MVV was never notified. The Netherland’s failure to fulfill its notification
obligation, therefore, appears to be at odds with the Commission’s final
decision to declare the aid compatible with EU law. Yet, a closer look at the
Commission’s decision of 6 March 2013 to launch the formal investigation shows
that the Commission was giving the Netherlands a ‘second chance’ to invoke
grounds that would lead to a justification of the measures.More...
The European Commission’s decisions of 4 July 2016 to order the recovery of the State aid granted to seven
Spanish professional football clubs
were in a previous blog called historic. It was
the first time that professional football clubs have been ordered to repay aid
received from (local) public authorities. Less attention has been given to five
other decisions also made public that day, which cleared support measures for five football clubs in the Netherlands. The clubs in question were PSV Eindhoven, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen,
FC Den Bosch and Willem II.
Given the inherent political sensitivity of State aid recovery
decisions, it is logical that the “Spanish decisions” were covered more widely
than the “Dutch decisions”. Furthermore, clubs like Real Madrid and FC
Barcelona automatically get more media attention than FC Den Bosch or Willem
II. Yet, even though the “Dutch decisions” are of a lower profile, from an EU
State aid law perspective, they are not necessarily less interesting.
A few days before entering the quiet month of August, the Commission
published the non-confidential versions of its decisions concerning PSV Eindhoven, Willem II and MVV Maastricht (hereinafter:
“MVV”). The swiftness of these publications is somewhat surprising, since it often
takes at least three months to solve all the confidentiality issues.
Nonetheless, nobody will complain (especially not me) about this opportunity to
analyze in depth these new decisions. More...
Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of
Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports
Part 2. EU competition law and sports funding
The first analysed impact of Brexit on
sport was the one regarding EU internal market rules and free movement.
However, all sport areas that are of interest to the European Union will be
impacted by the result of the future Brexit negotiations. This second part of
the blog will focus on EU competition law and the media sector as well as
direct funding opportunities keeping in mind that if the UK reaches for an EEA
type agreement competition law and state aid rules will remain applicable as
much as the funding programs. More...
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
What a month June
turned out to be. Waking up the morning after the 23rd, the results
of the UK referendum on EU membership were final. The words of Mark Twain: “Apparently
there is nothing that cannot happen today”, might provide the most apt
description of the mood felt at the time.
The Leave campaign’s narrow victory has brought along tremendous economic,
political and legal uncertainties for both the UK and the (other) Member
States. To give but one example, with regard to the implications of Brexit on Europe’s
most profiting football league, we recommend an older blog
by Daniel Geey and Jonny Madill. 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.