Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Guest Blog - Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): Legal Issues by Laura Donnellan

Editor's note: Laura Donnellan is a lecturer at University of Limerick. You can find her latest publications here.


Introduction

On Tuesday the 12th of April, João Carvalho passed away in the Beaumont Hospital after sustaining serious injuries from a mixed martial arts (MMA) event in Dublin on the previous Saturday. The fighter was knocked out in the third round of a welterweight fight against Charlie Ward. Aside from the tragic loss of life, the death of Carvalho raises a number of interesting legal issues. This opinion piece will discuss the possible civil and criminal liability that may result from the untimely death of the Portuguese fighter.

It is important to note at the outset that MMA has few rules and permits wrestling holds, punching, marital arts throws and kicking. MMA appears to have little regulation and a lack of universally accepted, standardised rules. There is no international federation or governing body that regulates MMA. It is largely self-regulated. MMA is not recognised under the sports and governing bodies listed by Sport Ireland, the statutory body established by the Sport Ireland Act 2015 which replaced the Irish Sports Council. MMA is considered a properly constituted sport so long as the rules and regulations are adhered to, there are appropriate safety procedures, the rules are enforced by independent referees, and it appropriately administered.

The Acting Minister for Sport, Michael Ring, has called for the regulation of MMA. Currently there are no minimum requirements when it comes to medical personnel; nor are there any particular requirements as to training of medical personnel. The promoter decides how many doctors and paramedics are to be stationed at events. In February 2014 Minister Ring wrote to 17 MMA promoters in Ireland requesting that they implement safety precautions in line with those used by other sports including boxing and rugby.

Despite this lack of regulation, this does not exempt MMA from legal liability as the discussion below demonstrates.More...



Guest Blog - The Role of Sport in the Recognition of Transgender and Intersex Rights by Conor Talbot

Editor's note: Conor Talbot is a Solicitor at LK Shields Solicitors in Dublin and an Associate Researcher at Trinity College Dublin. He can be contacted at ctalbot@tcd.ie, you can follow him on Twitter at @ConorTalbot and his research is available at www.ssrn.com/author=1369709. This piece was first published on the humanrights.ie blog.

Sport is an integral part of the culture of almost every nation and its ability to shape perceptions and influence public opinion should not be underestimated.  The United Nations has highlighted the potential for using sport in reducing discrimination and inequality, specifically by empowering girls and women.  Research indicates that the benefits of sport include enhancing health and well-being, fostering empowerment, facilitating social inclusion and challenging gender norms.

In spite of the possible benefits, the successful implementation of sport-related initiatives aimed at gender equity involves many challenges and obstacles.  Chief amongst these is the way that existing social constructs of masculinity and femininity — or socially accepted ways of expressing what it means to be a man or woman in a particular socio-cultural context — play a key role in determining access, levels of participation, and benefits from sport.  This contribution explores recent developments in the interaction between transgender and intersex rights and the multi-billion dollar industry that the modern Olympic Games has become.  Recent reports show that transgender people continue to suffer from the glacial pace of change in social attitudes and, while there has been progress as part of a long and difficult journey to afford transgender people full legal recognition through the courts, it seems clear that sport could play an increasingly important role in helping change or better inform social attitudes.More...



Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: The Final Whistle

Footballleaks is now operating since nearly half a year and has already provided an incredible wealth of legal documents both on TPO (and in particular Doyen’s contractual arrangements) and on the operation of the transfer system in football (mainly transfer agreements, player contracts and agents contracts). This constant stream of information is extremely valuable for academic research to get a better grip on the functioning of the transfer market. It is also extremely relevant for the shaping of public debates and political decisions on the regulation of this market. As pointed out on the footballleaks website, it has triggered a series of press investigations in major European news outlets.

In this blog, I want to come to a closure on our reporting on Doyen’s TPO deals. In the past months, we have already dealt with the specific cases of FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon, reviewed Doyen’s TPO deals with Spanish clubs, as well as discussed the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU law. In the Sporting Lisbon case, Doyen has since earned an important legal victory in front of the CAS (the ensuing award was just published by Footballleaks). This victory should not be overstated, however, it was not unexpected due to the liberal understanding of the freedom of contract under Swiss law. As such it does not support the necessity of TPO as an investment practice and does not threaten the legality (especially under EU law) of FIFA’s ban.

In our previous blogs on Doyen’s TPO deals we decided to focus only on specific deals, Twente and Sporting Lisbon, or a specific country (Spain). However, nearly six months after the whole footballleaks project started, we can now provide a more comprehensive analysis of the TPO deals signed by Doyen. Though, it is still possible that other, yet unknown, deals would be revealed, I believe that few of Doyen’s TPO agreements are still hidden. Thanks to footballleaks, we now know how Doyen operates, we have a precise idea of its turnover, its return on investments and the pool of clubs with which it signed a TPO agreement. Moreover, we have a good understanding of the contractual structure used by Doyen in those deals. This blog will offer a brief synthesis and analysis of this data.More...





Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: TPO and Spanish football, friends with(out) benefits?

Update: On 14 April footballleaks released a series of documents concerning Sporting de Gijón. Therefore, I have updated this blog on 19 April to take into account the new information provided.  

Doyen Sports’ TPO (or TPI) model has been touted as a “viable alternative source of finance much needed by the large majority of football clubs in Europe". These are the words of Doyen’s CEO, Nélio Lucas, during a debate on (the prohibition of) TPO held at the European Parliament in Brussels last January. During that same debate, La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, contended that professional football clubs, as private undertakings, should have the right to obtain funding by private investors to, among other reasons, “pay off the club’s debts or to compete better”. Indeed, defendants of the TPO model continuously argue that third party investors, such as Doyen, only have the clubs’ best interests in mind, being the only ones capable and willing to prevent professional football clubs from going bankrupt. This claim constitutes an important argument for the defendants of the TPO model, such as La Liga and La Liga Portuguesa, who have jointly submitted a complaint in front of the European Commission against FIFA’s ban of the practice.[1]

The eruption of footballleaks provided the essential material necessary to test this claim. It allows us to better analyse and understand the functioning of third party investment and the consequences for clubs who use these services. The leaked contracts between Doyen and, for example, FC Twente, showed that the club’s short term financial boost came at the expense of its long-term financial stability. If a club is incapable of transferring players for at least the minimum price set in Doyen’s contracts, it will find itself in a financially more precarious situation than before signing the Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA). TPO might have made FC Twente more competitive in the short run, in the long run it pushed the club (very) close to bankruptcy.

More than four months after its launch, footballleaks continues to publish documents from the football world, most notably Doyen’s ERPAs involving Spanish clubs.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – March 2016. By Marine Montejo

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. 

Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


The Headlines

The Belgian Court of Appeal released its judgment this month regarding Doyen’s legal battle against the FIFA TPO ban. The Appeal Court confirmed the first instance decision and ruled out any provisional measures to block the ban’s implementation (for an in depth review, see our blog post). More importantly, the Court reaffirmed that Swiss based sport federations are liable in front of EU Members’ States courts when EU competition law is involved. That means the next important step for this legal battle is whether or not the European Commission is going to open a formal proceeding (Doyen already lodged a complaint) to assess the compatibility, and more importantly, the proportionality of the TPO ban with EU law. Only a preliminary ruling by the CJEU could hasten the decision if one of the European national courts, hearing a case brought by Doyen (France or Belgium), decided to refer a preliminary question.More...


Doyen’s Crusade Against FIFA’s TPO Ban: The Ruling of the Appeal Court of Brussels

Since last year, Doyen Sports, represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, embarked on a legal crusade against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has lodged a competition law complaint with the EU Commission and started court proceedings in France and Belgium. In a first decision on Doyen’s request for provisory measures, the Brussels Court of First Instance rejected the demands raised by Doyen and already refused to send a preliminary reference to the CJEU. Doyen, supported by the Belgium club Seraing, decided to appeal this decision to the Brussels Appeal Court, which rendered its final ruling on the question on 10 March 2016.[1] The decision (on file with us) is rather unspectacular and in line with the first instance judgment. This blog post will rehash the three interesting aspects of the case.

·      The jurisdiction of the Belgian courts

·      The admissibility of Doyen’s action

·      The conditions for awarding provisory measures More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2016

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. 


The Headlines

The eagerly awaited FIFA Presidential elections of 26 February provided for a “new face” at the pinnacle of international football for the first time since 1998. One could argue whether Infantino is the man capable of bringing about the reform FIFA so desperately needs or whether he is simply a younger version of his predecessor Blatter. More...


Book Review: Despina Mavromati & Matthieu Reeb, The Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport—Commentary, Cases, and Materials (Wolters Kluwer International 2015). By Professor Matthew Mitten

Editor’s note: Professor Mitten is the Director of the National Sports Law Institute and the LL.M. in Sports Law program for foreign lawyers at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He currently teaches courses in Amateur Sports Law, Professional Sports Law, Sports Sponsorship Legal and Business Issues Workshop, and Torts. Professor Mitten is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and has served on the ad hoc Division for the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

This Book Review is published at 26 Marquette Sports Law Review 247 (2015).


This comprehensive treatise of more than 700 pages on the Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) (the Code) is an excellent resource that is useful to a wide audience, including attorneys representing parties before the CAS, CAS arbitrators, and sports law professors and scholars, as well as international arbitration counsel, arbitrators, and scholars.  It also should be of interest to national court judges and their law clerks because it facilitates their understanding of the CAS arbitration process for resolving Olympic and international sports disputes and demonstrates that the Code provides procedural fairness and substantive justice to the parties, thereby justifying judicial recognition and enforcement of its awards.[1]  Because the Code has been in existence for more than twenty years—since November 22, 1994—and has been revised four times, this book provides an important and much needed historical perspective and overview that identifies and explains well-established principles of CAS case law and consistent practices of CAS arbitrators and the CAS Court Office.  Both authors formerly served as Counsel to the CAS and now serve as Head of Research and Mediation at CAS and CAS Secretary General, respectively, giving them the collective expertise and experience that makes them eminently well-qualified to research and write this book.More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2016

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 Headlines

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[1]) 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 athletics. More...


International Sports Law in 2015: Our Reader

This post offers a basic literature review on publications on international and European sports law in 2015. It does not have the pretence of being complete (our readers are encouraged to add references and links in the comments under this blog), but aims at covering a relatively vast sample of the 2015 academic publications in the field (we have used the comprehensive catalogue of the Peace Palace Library as a baseline for this compilation). When possible we have added hyperlinks to the source.[1]

Have a good read. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

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, inter alia, whether the State aid rules impose an obligation upon the Commission to act and, if so, in what way.

In order to correctly decipher the potential consequences of Hungary’s behavior under EU State aid law, it is necessary to make a distinction between the part of the aid scheme declared compatible in the tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision, i.e. the donations for the sport infrastructures used by the professional sport organizations, and the donations used to cover personnel costs. Due to the fact that these two types of donation destinations were allowed based on two different exception procedures (the general exception found in Article 107(3)c) TFEU for the aid to sport infrastructure, and the General Block Exemption Regulation or the de minimis aid Regulation for the aid to cover personnel costs), the rules on reviewing and monitoring aid differ slightly. This blog will only focus on the review and monitoring rules of the tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision. 


Reviewing and monitoring State aid schemes – a Commission obligation?

A decision to approve an aid scheme (also known as a “positive decision” under Article 9(3) of the Procedural Regulation 2015/1589), should not fully release the Commission from any obligations regarding ex post control of that scheme. As can be read from Article 108(1) TFEU, “(t)he Commission shall, in cooperation with Member States, keep under constant review all systems of aid existing in those States. It shall propose to the latter any appropriate measure required by the progressive development or by the functioning of the internal market.”

The Commission’s responsibilities appear straightforward. After declaring the Hungarian tax benefit scheme compatible with EU law, it is obliged to review the implementation and usage of the aid by the Member State and the beneficiary, or beneficiaries. The CJEU settled as far back as 1974 that the Commission’s obligation to review existing aid is binding and that the Member States in question the obligation to cooperate with the Commission.[1] In fact, as Advocate General Lenz stated in his opinion in the Namur-Les Assurances du Crédit case, the Commission’s task to constantly review aid is even more necessary for aid schemes, like the Hungarian tax benefit scheme, as compared to individually authorized aid measures.[2] Pursuant to Article 108(1) TFEU and Article 21 of the Procedural Regulation, where the Commission considers that an existing aid scheme is not, or is no longer, compatible with the internal market instead of immediately launching a formal investigation, the Commission must issue a recommendation to the Member State concerned. The recommendation may propose, in particular:

  1. Substantive amendment of the aid scheme;
  2. Introduction of procedural requirements; or
  3. Abolition of the aid scheme.[3]

It is important to note that in accordance with Article 288 TFEU, fifth sentence, recommendations have no binding force. Therefore, the proposed measure itself is not binding for the Member State. Only where the Member State accepts the proposed measure, shall it be bound by its acceptance to implement the appropriate measure.[4] However, if the Member State refuses to accept and implement the recommendations, the Commission could launch a formal investigation in accordance with Article 108(2).[5] Article 108 (1) TFEU and Article 21 of the Procedural Regulation also require the Member States to cooperate with the Commission for the purpose of reviewing aid schemes. This cooperation is further specified in Article 26 of the Procedural Regulation, which obliges Member States to submit annual reports on existing aid schemes to the Commission.[6] The reports allow the Commission to monitor the compliance with the positive decision by the Member State. As was already discussed in part 1 of this blog, Hungary too is required to submit a yearly monitoring report containing information on the total aid amount allocated, the sport infrastructure projects funded, their beneficiaries, etc.[7] A failure by Hungary to submit an annual report, would allow the Commission to propose an appropriate measure as listed above.[8] Whether Hungary actually submits annual reports to the Commission is currently unclear.      


Monitoring the tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector – not as straightforward as it appears

The Commission has repeatedly expressed its ambition for more and better monitoring of State aid schemes. This ambition follows from its primary objective to increase Commission enforcement focus on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market, as can be read from, inter alia, the State Aid Modernisation (SAM) Communication of 2012. Better targeted State aid control means an “increased responsibility of Member States in designing and implementing aid measures” for cases of a more local nature and with little effect on trade, as well as “enhanced ex post monitoring by the Commission to ensure adequate compliance” with the State aid rules.[9] In 2006, the Commission introduced a regular, ex post, monitoring exercise of existing aid schemes. The monitoring exercise gradually increased from 20 different schemes in 2006, to 75 schemes in 2014, covering all Member States, all main types of aid approved as well as block-exempted schemes.[10] The monitoring exercises conducted in 2014 led to the openings of four formal investigations.[11] The willingness to increase monitoring seems logical when taking into account EU case law, which imposes, in practice, an obligation for the Commission to review previously approved aid schemes. Yet, only a very small amount of existing aid schemes is monitored, nor is it realistically possible to do monitor all the schemes. As can be read in the recently published DG Competition Management Plan 2016, over the last 10 years the Commission declared over 3000 aid schemes or measures compatible with EU law after a the preliminary phase (“decisions not to raise objections”) alone.[12] This amount does not take into account positive decisions or block exempted aid schemes and measures, all of which should, strictly speaking, be monitored. Exact numbers on the amount of existing aid schemes currently running throughout the EU are not available, but one could safely say that the overwhelming majority of existing aid schemes are not monitored. Unless the State aid department of the Commission dramatically increases its resources, both in terms of finances and staff, monitoring all existing State aid schemes will remain utopic.  


The “specificity” of State aid to the professional sport sector and why extra monitoring in the sector should be considered

The Hungarian tax benefit scheme is not functioning in accordance with its original objectives: many of the sport infrastructure projects funded with public money do not seem strictly necessary and selected professional football clubs benefitted disproportionately. Under these circumstances, a monitoring exercise conducted by the Commission could be needed. If a monitoring exercise confirms disproportionate spreading of subsidies, a consequent set of appropriate measures taken by Hungary could bring the scheme in line with its original objectives. However, given that the majority of schemes are not monitored, there is a very big chance that the Hungarian tax benefit scheme is not one of the “lucky ones” selected. It is also unclear whether the Commission’s answer to the Parliamentary question of 18 May in any way increases that probability.  


The State aid complaint procedure as an alternative

Another way to force the Commission to look into the aid scheme, not yet discussed above, is through a State aid complaint procedure. Although the tax benefit scheme was already approved by the Commission in 2011, this should not rule out the possibility of an interested party submitting a complaint to inform the Commission of any alleged unlawful aid.[13] Pursuant to Article 12(1), the Commission is obliged to examine without undue delay a complaint by an interested party, thereby automatically triggering the preliminary State aid investigation of Article 108(3) TFEU. Although ‘unlawful aid’ refers to new aid put into effect in contravention of Article 108(3) TFEU[14], and not existing aid, such as aid schemes authorized by the Commission[15], ‘new aid’ also refers to existing aid that has been altered by the Member State.[16] In accordance with the Commission’s State Aid Manual of Procedures, for an aid scheme to be altered, the complainant would need to demonstrate that a change has taken place that affects “the evaluation of the compatibility of the aid with the common market”.[17] In addition to this, the complaint would need to include, inter alia, information on the (functioning of) the scheme, the amount of aid granted, and why the scheme is no longer compatible under Article 107(3).[18] A further highly important criterion is for the interested party to demonstrate to the Commission that the complainant is directly affected in its “competitive position” by the aid scheme.[19] This criterion empowers the Commission to separate formal complaints from the complaints that are “not motivated by genuine competition concerns”, thereby reducing considerably its workload of having to launch a (preliminary) investigation based on every single complaint it receives.[20] Complaints submitted by complainants, who the Commission does not consider to be interested parties, will be regarded as “general market information”[21] and do not oblige the Commission to investigate.  


The “specificity” of State aid to professional sport – no complaints by other clubs

The “interested party” criterion was only added after the reform of the Procedural Regulation in 2013[22], and has affected the professional sport sector considerably. The two years prior saw great activity by the Commission in the sector, including the opening of four formal investigations into alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid and Valencia CF.[23] The investigations into alleged aid granted to Real Madrid and Valencia CF were not launched after the submission of a complaint by an interested party, but after “the attention of the Commission was drawn by press reports and information sent by citizens in 2012-2013”.[24] The end of formal investigations into alleged aid granted to professional sport clubs coincided with the introduction of the “interested party” criterion: since citizens are not considered interested parties, the Commission does not have an obligation anymore to investigate complaints, or any form of information, submitted by them. At this moment, only complaints submitted by interested parties, i.e. a party directly affected in its competitive position, have the potential of triggering fresh State aid investigations in the professional sport sector.[25]

Which persons or undertakings fulfill the “interested party” criterion? The answer to this question requires a case by case analysis and depends on the aid measure or scheme chosen by the public authorities.[26] Nonetheless, where aid is granted to a professional sport club, the clearest example of an interested party would be another professional sport club. Getting professional sport clubs to submit State aid complaints is, however, easier said than done. Contrary to other economic sectors where competitors would complain if they feel that they are directly affected in their competitive position, no professional sport club has ever submitted a State aid complaint, nor is it likely to happen anytime soon. As is confirmed by Dutch professional football club FC Groningen’s director Hans Nijland in an article published on 18 May by the Dutch magazine De Groene Amterdammer , “if (another football club) manages to sign a deal with its municipality, I will not complain. In fact, I would say congratulations, well done”.[27] The same mentality probably prevails in Hungary, making it very unlikely that a Hungarian professional football club, or any other professional sport club, decides to submit a complaint alleging unlawful aid to, say, Puskás Akadémia FC due to the disproportionate distribution of subsidies under the tax benefit scheme.  


Why extra monitoring in the sport sector should be considered

The advantages of EU State aid control include efficient government spending in the economy as well as better accountability and transparency of aid measures.[28] Nonetheless, with the chances of the Commission monitoring existing aid in professional sport, such as the Hungarian tax benefit scheme, being very slim, and given the unlikeliness of a submission of a complaint by a competing professional sport club, how useful are the State aid rules to achieve better accountability and transparency in (professional) sport? Local governments will continue spending large amounts of public money on projects that distort competition and are contrary to the general public interest, without a meaningful risk of being called back. Furthermore, as long as the Commission does not prioritize State aid enforcement to the professional sport sector, similar to how it enforces the State aid rules regarding fiscal aid to multinationals[29], it is also unlikely that it will investigate ex officio.

From the “efficient use of Commission resources” viewpoint, it is, in a way, understandable that the Commission has decided not to prioritize State aid to professional sport. They are, after all, not the most distortive State aid cases. However, this lack of prioritization is not being compensated with the submission of complaints by interested parties, meaning that public authorities have less to fear from State aid control in the professional sport factor, as compared to other market sectors.

To prevent a complete carte blanche for the public authorities, I would argue that the Commission should impose upon itself stricter conditions as regards monitoring State aid measures and scheme to the benefit of professional sport clubs. The current monitoring system, where the chance of being monitored is smaller than not being monitored, is inefficient in a sector where competitors do not serve as watchdogs. Only by radically increasing the monitoring chance in the professional sport sector can better accountability and transparency of aid measures be achieved.



[1] Case 173/73, Italy v Commission, [1974] ECLI:EU:C:1974:71, para 24.

[2] Opinion of Advocate General Lenz in Case C-44/93, Namur-Les Assurances du Crédit SA v Office Nationale du Ducroire , [1994] ECLI:EU:C:1994:262, para 86.

[3] Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 22. Contrary to the decision options of formal investigations, a decision to order a recovery of the aid from the beneficiary or beneficiaries, as listed in Procedural Regulation, Articles 9(5) and 16, is not an option for the “review procedure”.

[4] Ibid., Article 23(1).

[5] The Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) decision is a good example of a formal investigation based on ex post review and monitoring. Following a “selected” monitoring exercise in 2011, it was discovered that the UK had failed to take the appropriate measures to bring an aid scheme in line with the Commission Guidelines on Risk Capital , even though it had promised to do so. This led to the Commission opening a formal investigation in November 2011.

[6] Pursuant to Procedural Regulation, Article 26(1), the obligation to submit annual reports applies to decisions “to which no specific reporting obligations have been imposed in a conditional decision”. Under a conditional decision, the Commission attaches to a decision conditions subject to which aid may be considered compatible with the internal market. The tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision has no specific conditions attached to it, apart from the usual obligation for the Member State concerned to submit an annual report to the Commission.

[7] Commission Decision of 9 November 2011, SA.31722 – Hungary - Supporting the Hungarian sport sector via tax benefit scheme , para 57.

[8] Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 26(2).

[9] EU State Aid Modernisation Communication of 8 May 2012 , para 19.

[10] Commission Staff Working Document of 4 June 2015, “ Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Competition Policy 2014 ”, page 10.

[11] Ibid. One of the investigations involved the Enterprise Capital Funds scheme – Supra n5.

[12] DG Competition document of 18 March 2016 REF. Ares(2016)1370536 “ Management Plan 2016 ”, page 15.

[13] Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 24(2).

[14] Ibid., Article 1(f).

[15] Ibid., Article 1(b)(ii).

[16] Ibid., Article 1(c).

[17] Internal DG Competition working documents on procedures for the application of Articles 107 and 108 TFEU of 10 July 2013, State Aid Manual of Procedures , Section 5, para 1.2.1.

[18] A complaint that does not comply with the compulsory complaint form, or if the complainant does not provide sufficient grounds to show the existence of unlawful aid can be withdrawn by the Commission. See Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 24(2).

[19] Form for the Submission of Complaints Concerning Alleged Unlawful State Aid or Misuse of Aid , point 3.

[20] Draft Report by the European Parliament of 19 March 2013 on the proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 laying down detailed rules for the application of Article 93 of the EC Treaty (COM (2012) 725 final) , page 17.

[21] Supra., No 19.

[22] Council Regulation (EU) No 734/2013 of 22 July 20-13 amending Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 laying down detailed rules for the application of Article 93 of the EC Treaty [2013] OJ L204/14.

[23] An explanation on why the public financing of sports infrastructure and professional sports clubs only started to attract State aid scrutiny in recent years can be read in: Ben Van Rompuy and Oskar van Maren, EU Control of State Aid to Professional Sport: Why Now?” In: “The Legacy of Bosman. Revisiting the relationship between EU law and sport”, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2016.

[24] See, for example Commission decision of 18 December 2013, SA.36387 Spain – Alleged aid in favour of three Valencia football clubs, para 3. The other formal investigations to professional football clubs (i.e. Real Madrid , five Dutch football clubs and four Spanish football clubs ), were also launched after the Commission received information through citizens and/or the press.

[25] Or the Commission decides to open an investigation ex officio pursuant to Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 12(1). However, this is very unlikely, given the lack of priority given by the Commission to sport.

[26] For example, in the case of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme, clubs or associations not active in the sport sector (e.g. theatre clubs, art clubs, etc.), could potentially argue that they have been placed in a disadvantageous position, since they cannot receive donations under the scheme. An aid measure provided in the form of advantageous land transactions, such as the Real Madrid case, could directly affect any undertaking interested in purchasing the same land, or any other plot of land against other market conditions.

[27] Hester den Boer and Bram Logger, “ Een spits van belastinggeld; Onderzoek – Lokale overheden blijven profvoetbal massaal steunen ”, De Groene Amsterdammer, 18 May 2016, page 5.

[28] See for example Oskar van Maren, EU State Aid Law and Professional Football: A threat or a Blessing?” , European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 15 1/2016, pages 31-46.

[29] High profile formal State aid investigations into alleged aid granted by means of selective tax agreements between Member State governments and multinationals like Starbucks, Fiat, Amazon or Apple, have launched in the last few years.

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