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 - 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.

Background

The practice of sport is a human right.  Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” - Olympic Charter

While proclaiming the practice of sport to be a human right, the Olympic Charter unequivocally states that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has “supreme authority” over the staging of the Olympic Games.  Under the IOC’s stewardship, and in line with other major sporting events worldwide, a narrative has been carefully cultivated to the effect that events such as Olympic Games would not be possible without the support and resources of the broadcasters and, ultimately, sponsors.  Therefore, while on the one hand, the use of sports as a development tool and strategy to reduce discrimination generally is growing, there is also a distinct field of commentary which is critical of the approach of the Olympic “industry”  (indeed, the term "industry" is used to  draw attention to the profit-making goals of the Olympics).

Given the top-down nature of sporting governance, research from Wales and Scotland reveals that whilst many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to be put off by negative experiences or the perception that it is an unpleasant and unsafe environment for LGBT people.  This post focuses in particular on the treatment of transgender and intersex athletes under the rules enforced by international sporting federations.  In attempting to get ahead of the curve with transgender issues, with the stated aim of protecting the sporting integrity (and therefore the reputational and commercial value) of competitions by minimising sex-related advantages, the IOC has a long history of insensitive and often unproductive testing protocols for athletes.  As it is probably the most visible of all international sporting federations, the IOC became the standard bearer for such testing policies and, indeed, it has been argued that IOC policies gave impetus (and sometimes political cover) for other groups to follow suit.

Gender/Sex Verification Tests and the Stockholm Consensus

The issue of gender- or sex-verification gained global attention in recent times after South African runner Caster Semenya was ordered to undergo tests after winning the 800m world title in 2009.  She was eventually cleared to compete by the IAAF and won silver in the 800m at the 2012 London Olympics.

IOC had maintained a practice of conducting gender verification tests at the Olympic Games, with the testing of Dora Ratjen in 1938 and Foekje Dillema in 1950 being early cases to gain attention.  The initial testing protocols amounted to rather crude and undoubtedly humiliating physical examinations.  These techniques later gave way to the method of determining ‘sex’ chromatin through buccal smear examination, introduced at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968. Chromosome-based screenings were criticised for being unscientific and unfairly excluding many athletes, in particular since only the chromosomal (genetic) sex is analysed by sex chromatin testing, not the anatomical or psychosocial status.  These techniques were abandoned by the IAAF in 1991 and the IOC since Sydney 2000.

Under the so-called Stockholm Consensus, the IOC granted permission for men and women who had undergone gender reassignment surgery to participate in competitive sport.  The Consensus recommended that individuals undergoing sex reassignment from male to female after puberty (and the converse) be eligible for participation in female or male competitions, respectively, once surgical anatomical changes had been completed (gonadectomy), legal recognition of their assigned sex had been conferred; and verifiable hormonal therapy had been administered for a sufficient length of time to minimise gender-related advantages. Under the Consensus, eligibility for competition could begin no sooner than two years after the athlete’s gonadectomy.

Regulation of Hyperandrogenism in Female Athletes

Hyperandrogenism is a term used to describe the excessive production of androgens (testosterone).  Given its influence on endurance and recovery, controversies have arisen in the past surrounding cisgender women athletes with high levels of testosterone.  An Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand, was suspended by the IAAF in 2014 due to her elevated testosterone levels.  However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended the IAAF rule in July 2015, on the grounds that the IAAF had failed to prove that women with naturally high levels of testosterone had a competitive edge.  The CAS ordered the IAAF to present new scientific evidence regarding the degree of competitive advantage enjoyed by hyperandrogenic females by July 2017, otherwise its 2011 Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition would be declared void. 

While Chand was cleared to compete following her high profile appeal, a study published in April 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a US peer-reviewed journal for endocrine clinical research, recounts the rather less fortunate fate of four anonymous young athletes who, it appears, were effectively forced to undergo surgery to allow them to compete in women’s sports ahead of the 2012 Olympics.  When the story emerged in June 2013, the IAAF reportedly denied that it had taken place.

The young women, who were 18, 20, 21, and 20 years of age at the time of the study, came from rural or mountainous regions of developing countries.  Clinical inspection of the women revealed varying degrees of intersexuality: they had never menstruated and had male bone characteristics, no breast development and partial or complete labial fusion.  Consanguinity was confirmed for three of them (first cousins in two cases and siblings in another) and was suspected in the fourth case with her parents originating from neighbouring villages.  The authors of the report opine that the gender abnormalities of the athletes may not have been formally diagnosed or given medical attention because they had been born in rural regions of countries with poor care.  In all cases, they were tall, slim, muscular women and had manifested strong motivation and high tolerance to intensive daily training, which had made them good candidates for elite sports competition. 

Rather than requesting gender change, the study reports that the athletes wished to maintain their female identity in order to continue elite sport in the female category.  Although leaving male gonads carried no health risk, and despite the negative effect that a gonadectomy would have on their performance levels and general health, the athletes underwent the feminising surgical procedures.  The study concludes that the sports authorities then allowed them to continue competing in the female category one year after their procedures.  The radical nature of the surgery required, as well as the unknown future impact on the athletes’ health, highlight the dangers of such policies for inclusion in women's sporting events.

New IOC Guidelines

Under new IOC Transgender Guidelines, which were reported as stemming from an unpublicised Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism, surgery such as that described above will no longer be required.  Female-to-male transgender athletes are now eligible to take part in men’s competitions “without restriction”, while male-to-female transgender athletes will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below 10 nanomols per litre for at least one year before their first competition.  That said, the IOC document does contain a provision allowing for a the imposition of a period of longer than one year, based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition.  No further detail is provided on the nature of these case by case evaluations so it is unclear just how much progress these guidelines actually represent compared to the crude sex verification tests used in the past.  Again, the IOC justifies these regulations as being necessary to avoid accusations of an unfair competitive advantage. 

The IOC document also refers directly to CAS decision in relation to Dutee Chand.  Specifically, the IOC encourages the IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules.  Therefore, the IOC’s appears to contest the validity of the CAS award and seems determined to provide scientific grounds for upholding its ban on female athletes with elevated levels of testosterone, even where it is naturally occurring and the athletes’ bodies are partially unable to process it.

Taken together, the net result of these regulations is that if a female transgender or intersex athlete’s natural testosterone levels are considered too high, she is expected to undergo treatment to reduce her testosterone to levels considered to be within the normal range for women before being allowed to compete in women’s sports.  This has come to be the subject of severe criticism because it is argued that such athletes are being medically harmed by sport under these regulations.  Testosterone is essential for the development of male growth and masculine characteristics, and is vital for any athlete in aiding recovery times from physical exertion.  Although the health effects of the presence of high levels of testosterone in women’s bodies is still the subject of research, testosterone occurs naturally in both males and females and would appear to be vital for the body’s all-round health.

Kristen Worley Litigation

The potential for these testosterone limits to lead to harm to the athletes involved is the focus of a major case being brought by a Canadian cyclist, Kirsten Worley, a female athlete who has transitioned from male to female by undergoing sex reassignment surgery with the result that she no longer produces either testosterone or estrogen.  She alleges that the Ontario Cycling Association and Cycling Canada Cyclisme gender verification and anti-doping rules discriminate against her on grounds of sex, contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Code.  The rules in question are based on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) directives which are, in turn, based on IOC policies.  Worley claims that these policies have damaged not only her ability to continue taking part in competitive cycling, but also her health. 

Interestingly, Worley effectively bypassed international sport's usual dispute-settlement procedures by bringing her claim through the mainstream human rights judicial instances.  After the preliminary issue of whether the respondents received effective legal notice, a further dealy was caused when the IOC requested that the Tribunal defer consideration of Worley’s application pending the completion of a judicial review application commenced by the IOC.  The IOC also argued  that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was not competent to hear the case, since it concerns sporting rules.  Likewise, the UCI objected to the Tribunal’s ability to adjudicate and argued that the UCI Arbitral Board and/or the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport are the competent authorities to address the allegations contained in Worley’s application. 

Next Steps

Importantly, the court hearing the preliminary proceedings in the Worley application held that it is established law that parties cannot contract out of the Canadian Human Rights Code’s protections.  Therefore, the court rejected the proposition that the Human Rights Tribunal lacked jurisdiction purely because there are alternate mechanisms to which Worley could have, but did not, file a claim.  As such, the Worley litigation is extremely interesting as it will be a rare instance of the sheltered world of international sporting organisations being subjected to the full rigours of human rights principles.

It will be very interesting to follow how this claim is dealt with by the Canadian courts, and received by the international sporting community generally, in the months and years to come.  Worley herself has pursued this campaign for over a decade and, given the publicity garnered by the latest steps in her litigation, it now appears to have the potential to inspire other athletes to avail of human rights avenues to open up sports-based disputes to courts of law rather than courts of arbitration.  From the IOC’s perspective, it is clear that it has a legitimate interest in acting to preserve fair competition but this agenda cannot be pursued irrespective of the repercussions.  The most recent changes to its Transgender Guidelines are expressly stated to have been introduced in recognition of how requiring surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation may be inconsistent with “notions of human rights”.

If nothing else, the new IOC Transgender Guidelines proves that international sport does not operate in a vacuum and is capable, to some extent at least, of reflecting social progress.  However, it remains to be seen whether the most visible sporting governance body is prepared to play a true leadership role in utilising all the benefits of sports in helping to change perceptions of transgender and intersex athletes.  In that sense, the Kirsten Worley litigation represents a crystallisation of a struggle to apply human rights principles in a new area and, as such, will be worthy of our attention going forward.


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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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