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

FIFA's Human Rights Agenda: Is the Game Beautiful Again? – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

 

Concerns about adverse human rights impacts related to FIFA's activities have intensified ever since its late 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar respectively. However, until recently, the world's governing body of football had done little to eliminate these concerns, thereby encouraging human rights advocates to exercise their critical eye on FIFA. 

In response to growing criticism, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress, held in February 2016, decided to include an explicit human rights commitment in the revised FIFA Statutes which came into force in April 2016. This commitment is encapsulated in Article 3 which reads as follows: ''FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights''. At around the same time, Professor John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding Principles') presented in his report 25 specific recommendations for FIFA on how to further embed respect for human rights across its global operations. While praising the decision to make a human rights commitment part of the organization's constituent document, Ruggie concluded that ''FIFA does not have yet adequate systems in place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice''.[1]

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia less than a year away, the time is ripe to look at whether Ruggie's statement about FIFA's inability to respect human rights still holds true today. This blog outlines the most salient human rights risks related to FIFA's activities and offers a general overview of what the world's governing body of football did over the past twelve months to mitigate these risks. Information about FIFA's human rights activities is collected primarily from its Activity Update on Human Rights published alongside FIFA's Human Rights Policy in June 2017. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – June 2017. By Tomáš Grell

 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

 
ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law

On 26 and 27 October, the T.M.C. Asser Institute in The Hague will host the first ever ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference. This year’s edition will feature panels on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world anti-doping system, the FIFA transfer regulations, human rights and sports, the labour rights of athletes, and EU law and sport. More...



Mitigating Circumstances and Strict Liability of Clubs in Match-fixing: Are We Going in the Wrong Direction? An Analysis of the Novara and Pro Patria Cases - By Mario Vigna


Editor’s note: Mario Vigna is a Senior Associate at Coccia De Angelis Vecchio & Associati in Rome, Italy. His main practice areas are sports law, commercial law, and IP law. He also has extensive experience in the Anti-doping field, serving as Deputy-Chief Prosecutor of the Italian NADO and as counsel in domestic and international sports proceedings. He is a frequent speaker at various conferences and workshops. He was not involved in either of the cases discussed below.


I.               Introduction 

Gambling in football is a popular and potentially lucrative activity. It also raises numerous issues. When faced with the issue of gambling, the European Court of Justice (now Court of Justice of the EU) determined that gambling was economic activity per se, notwithstanding gambling’s vulnerability to ethical issues, and thus could not be prohibited outright.[1] With the legality of gambling established, it was left to the proper legislative bodies (national legislatures, national and international federations, etc.) to regulate gambling in order to guard against fraud and corruption. Gambling was not going to disappear; the dangers inherent to gambling would require attention.  More...




Overdue payables in action: Reviewing two years of FIFA jurisprudence on the 12bis procedure – Part 2. By Frans M. de Weger and Frank John Vrolijk.

Editor's Note: Frans M. de Weger is legal counsel for the Federation of Dutch Professional Football Clubs (FBO) and CAS arbitrator. De Weger is author of the book “The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber”, 2nd edition, published by T.M.C. Asser Press in 2016. Frank John Vrolijk specialises in Sports, Labour and Company Law and is a former legal trainee of FBO and DRC Database.

This second blog will focus specifically on the sanctions available for FIFA under Article 12bis. It will provide explanatory guidelines covering the sanctions imposed during the period surveyed.


Introduction

The possibility to impose sanctions under article 12bis constitutes one of the pillars of the 12bis procedure. Pursuant to Article 12bis of the RSTP, edition 2016, the DRC and the PSC may impose a sanction on a club if the club is found to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis[1] and the creditor have put the debtor club in default in writing, granting a deadline of at least 10 days.[2] The jurisprudence in relation to Article 12bis also shows that sanctions are imposed ex officio by the DRC or the PSC and not per request of the claimant.More...





Overdue payables in action: Reviewing two years of FIFA jurisprudence on the 12bis procedure – Part 1. By Frans M. de Weger and Frank John Vrolijk.

Editor's Note: Frans M. de Weger is legal counsel for the Federation of Dutch Professional Football Clubs (FBO) and CAS arbitrator. De Weger is author of the book “The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber”, 2nd edition, published by T.M.C. Asser Press in 2016. Frank John Vrolijk specialises in Sports, Labour and Company Law and is a former legal trainee of FBO and DRC Database.

In this first blog, we will try to answer some questions raised in relation to the Article 12bis procedure on overdue payables based on the jurisprudence of the DRC and the PSC during the last two years: from 1 April 2015 until 1 April 2017. [1] The awards of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (hereinafter: “the CAS”) in relation to Article 12bis that are published on CAS’s website will also be brought to the reader’s attention. In the second blog, we will focus specifically on the sanctions applied by FIFA under Article 12bis. In addition, explanatory guidelines will be offered covering the sanctions imposed during the period surveyed. A more extensive version of both blogs is pending for publication with the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ). If necessary, and for a more detailed and extensive analysis at certain points, we will make reference to this more extensive article in the ISLJ. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – May 2017. By Tomáš Grell

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 end of governance reforms at FIFA?

The main sports governance story that surfaced in the press (see here and here) during the last month is related to significant personal changes made by the FIFA Council within the organization’s institutional structure. In particular, the FIFA Council dismissed the heads of the investigatory (Mr Cornel Borbély) and adjudicatory (Mr Hans-Joachim Eckert) chambers of the Independent Ethics Committee, as well as the Head (Mr Miguel Maduro) of the Governance and Review Committee. The decision to remove Mr Maduro was taken arguably in response to his active role in barring Mr Vitaly Mutko, a Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, from sitting on the FIFA Council due to an imminent conflict of interests. These events constitute a major setback to governance reforms initiated by the football’s world governing body in 2015. For a more detailed insight into the governance reforms at FIFA, we invite you to read the recent blog written by our senior researcher Mr Antoine Duval. More...

The Olympic Games and Human Rights – Part II: Human Rights Obligations Added to the Host City Contract: Turning Point or Empty Promise? – By Tomáš Grell


This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on human rights implications of the Olympic Games published last week. Together with highlighting some of the most serious Olympic Games-related human rights abuses, the first part has outlined the key elements of the Host City Contract ('HCC') as one of the main legal instruments regulating the execution of the Olympic Games. It has also indicated that, in February 2017, the International Olympic Committee ('IOC') revised the 2024 HCC to include, inter alia, explicit human rights obligations. Without questioning the potential significance of inserting human rights obligations to the 2024 HCC, this second part will refer to a number of outstanding issues requiring clarification in order to ensure that these newly-added human rights obligations are translated from paper to actual practice. More...


The Olympic Games and Human Rights – Part I: Introduction to the Host City Contract – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.


In its press release of 28 February 2017, the International Olympic Committee ('IOC') communicated that, as part of the implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020 ('Agenda 2020'), it is making specific changes to the 2024 Host City Contract with regard to human rights, anti-corruption and sustainable development. On this occasion, IOC President Thomas Bach stated that ''this latest step is another reflection of the IOC's commitment to embedding the fundamental values of Olympism in all aspects of the Olympic Games''. Although the Host City of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games is scheduled to be announced only in September this year, it is now clear that, be it either Los Angeles or Paris (as Budapest has recently withdrawn its bid), it will have to abide by an additional set of human rights obligations.

This two-part blog will take a closer look at the execution of the Olympic Games from a human rights perspective. The first part will address the most serious human rights abuses that reportedly took place in connection with some of the previous editions of the Olympic Games. It will also outline the key characteristics of the Host City Contract ('HCC') as one of the main legal instruments relating to the execution of the Olympic Games. The second part will shed light on the human rights provisions that have been recently added to the 2024 HCC and it will seek to examine how, if at all, these newly-added human rights obligations could be reflected in practice. For the sake of clarity, it should be noted that the present blog will not focus on the provisions concerning anti-corruption that have been introduced to the 2024 HCC together with the abovementioned human rights provisions. More...



Exploring the Validity of Unilateral Extension Options in Football – Part 2: The view of the DRC and the CAS. By Saverio Spera

Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law at King’s College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. 

This blog is a follow up to my previous contribution on the validity of Unilateral Extension Options (hereafter UEOs) under national and European law. It focuses on the different approaches taken to UEOs by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and the Court of arbitration for sport (CAS). While in general the DRC has adopted a strict approach towards their validity, the CAS has followed a more liberal trend. Nonetheless, the two judicial bodies share a common conclusion: UEOs are not necessarily invalid. In this second blog I will provide an overview of the similarities and differences of the two judicial bodies in tackling UEOs. 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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