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.
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.
membership put a lot of emphasis on football federations in May. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) has
rendered an award, on 27 April 2016, ordering the FIFA Council to
submit the application of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) for FIFA
membership to the FIFA Congress (the body authorised to admit new members to FIFA). The GFA has sought since 1999 to become a member of
UEFA and FIFA. In May 2013, it became a
member of the UEFA and went on to seek membership of FIFA. 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 3 June 2016, the Landgericht München (“Munich
Regional Court”) ordered temporary injunctions against the International Basketball Federation (“FIBA”)
and FIBA Europe, prohibiting them from sanctioning clubs who want to
participate in competitions organized by Euroleague Commercial Assets (“ECA”).
The reasoning of the Court is based on breaches of German and EU competition
law provisions. FIBA and FIBA Europe are, according to the judge, abusing their
dominant position by excluding or threatening to exclude national teams from
their international competitions because of the participation of their clubs in
the Euroleague. This decision is the first judicial step taken in the ongoing
legal battle between FIBA and ECA over the organization of European basketball competitions.
This judgment raises several interesting points with
regard to how the national judge deals with the alleged abuse of a dominant
position by European and international federations. A few questions arise
regarding the competence of the Munich Regional Court that may be interesting
to first look at in the wake of an appeal before examining the substance of the
On 18 May 2016, the day the first part
of this blog was published, the Commission said in response
to the Hungarian MEP Péter Niedermüller’s question, that it
had “not specifically monitored the tax relief (…) but would consider doing so.
The Commission cannot prejudge the steps that it might take following such
monitoring. However, the Commission thanks (Niedermüller) for drawing its
attention to the report of Transparency International.”
With the actual implementation in Hungary appearing to
deviate from the original objectives and conditions of the aid scheme, as discussed
in part 1 of this blog, a possible monitoring exercise by the Commission of the
Hungarian tax benefit scheme seems appropriate. The question remains, however,
whether the Commission follows up on the intent of monitoring, or whether the
intent should be regarded as empty words. This second part of the blog will outline
the rules on reviewing and monitoring (existing) aid, both substantively and
procedurally. It will determine,
alia, whether the State aid rules impose an obligation upon the Commission
to act and, if so, in what way. More...
benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision of 9 November 2011 marked a turning point as
regards the Commission’s decisional practice in the field of State aid and
sport. Between this date and early 2014, the Commission reached a total of ten decisions
on State aid to sport infrastructure and opened four formal investigations into
alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid
and Valencia CF.
As a result of the experience gained from the decision making, it was decided
to include a Section on State aid to sport infrastructure in the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation. Moreover, many people, including myself, held that
Commission scrutiny in this sector would serve to achieve better accountability
and transparency in sport governance.
Yet, a recent report by
Transparency International (TI), published in October 2015, raises questions about the efficiency of State aid enforcement in
the sport sector. The report analyzes the results and effects of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme and
financing system suffers from transparency issues and corruption risks. (…) The
lack of transparency poses a serious risk of collusion between politics and
business which leads to opaque lobbying. This might be a reason for the
disproportionateness found in the distribution of the subsidies, which is most
apparent in the case of (football) and (the football club) Felcsút.”
In other words, according to TI, selective economic
advantages from public resources are being granted to professional football
clubs, irrespective of the tax benefit scheme greenlighted by the Commission
or, in fact, because of the tax
benefit scheme. 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.
This month saw the conflict between FIBA Europe
and the Euroleague (more precisely its private club-supported organizing body,
Euroleague Commercial Assets or ‘ECA’) becoming further entrenched. This
dispute commenced with FIBA creating a rival Basketball Champions League, starting from the 2016-2017 season with the hope to reinstate their
hold over the organization of European championships. The ECA, a private body
that oversees the Euroleague and Eurocup, not only decided to maintain its
competitions but also announced it would reduce them to a closed, franchise-based league following a
joint-venture with IMG. In retaliation, FIBA Europe suspended fourteen
federations of its competition (with the support of FIBA) due to their support for the Euroleague project.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.
In its decisions regarding the joint selling of football media rights (UEFA, Bundesliga, FA Premier
league), the European Commission insisted that premium media
rights must be sold through a non-discriminatory and transparent tender
procedure, in several packages and for a limited period of time in order to
reduce foreclosure effects in the downstream market. These remedies ensure that
broadcasters are able to compete for rights that carry high audiences and, for
pay TV, a stable number of subscriptions. In line with these precedents, national
competition authorities have tried to ensure compliance with remedy packages.
The tipping point here appears to be the premium qualification of sport rights
on the upstream market of commercialization of sport TV rights.
This begs the question: which sport TV rights must be
considered premium? More...