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Spanish professional football clubs have to pay back incompatible aid

The European Commission has concluded following in-depth investigations that public support measures granted by Spain to seven professional football clubs gave those clubs an unfair advantage over other clubs in breach of EU state aid rules.As a result, Spain has to recover the illegal state aid amounts from the seven clubs, namely FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Osasuna, Elche and Hercules. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, commented: “Using tax payers’ money to finance professional football clubs can create unfair competition. Professional football is a commercial activity with significant money involved and public money must comply with fair competition rules. The subsidies we investigated in these cases did not.” Separately, the Commission concluded after an in-depth investigation that support measures granted by several Dutch municipalities to five football clubs are in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that four clubs (FC Den Bosch, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen and Willem II, Tilburg) received aid but that the support complied with EU state aid rules. A land transaction concerning PSV Eindhoven involved no aid as it took place on market terms. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “When public authorities hand out subsidies there is a risk of competition distortions. Professional football clubs are businesses and the Commission needs to make sure that the economic competition between clubs is not distorted by state subsidies for a select few. In the Dutch cases, we found that the measures respected state aid rules and did not distort competition.” Professional sports are an economic activity and in many cases professional football clubs have significant turnover. EU state aid rules ensure that public funding does not distort competition between clubs. They protect the level playing field for the majority of professional clubs that have to operate without subsidies. Source : EC Press

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