European Commission - Press release
State aid: Commission clears Hungarian sport support scheme
Brussels, 9 November 2011 - The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a proposal by Hungary to grant around €60 million of yearly public financing towards the renovation and upgrade of existing sports infrastructure in Hungary. The Commission agrees that the funding scheme furthers a common interest, while ensuring sufficient safeguards are in place to minimise potential distortions of competition between professional clubs.
"Public support of sport infrastructure used by professional clubs clearly falls under EU State aid rules. However, I am satisfied that the Hungarian scheme contains proper safeguards to limit distortions of competition and to ensure that the scheme will benefit citizens to a large extent, ," said Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia.
Earlier this year, Hungary adopted a programme to increase the participation of citizens in sport activities that requires the modernisation of sports infrastructure and the training of young people. The measure focuses on the five most popular team sports in Hungary, namely football, handball, basketball, ice-hockey and water-polo, as they are expected to have the greatest impact on the local population's sports activity.
After having examined the Hungarian measure and the safeguards contained therein, the Commission has agreed that it can be declared compatible with Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty, which allows aid to "facilitate the development of certain economic activities, where it does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest".
In order to receive funding under the scheme, professional sports clubs have to design a strategy that includes initiatives for the public, such as the organisation of mass sports events, training of the young generation or reserving schedules for local citizens to use sports infrastructures. If the strategy is approved by the Controlling Authority of the responsible Ministry, the club can receive funding, for instance for security and safety investments in the existing sports infrastructures.
Since sports infrastructure in Hungary is up to 90% publicly owned, professional sports clubs will be investing mainly in public properties. Moreover, they will have to pay adequate prices for the use of those infrastructures and any additional investments undertaken with the help of State aid will be reflected in the rental prices. In addition, any sports infrastructure receiving State aid under the scheme shall be multifunctional and shall be allowed to host other events than sports. Finally, Hungary has set up strong monitoring and control mechanisms to ensure the proper implementation of the scheme and will report to the Commission on an annual basis.
Sport is considered an important contributor to the well-being and the health of citizens1. The EU acknowledges the importance of sport in Article 165 of the TFEU: "The Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of its specific nature, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function".
In its White Paper on Sports, the Commission highlighted2 that the sports sector has enormous potential for bringing the citizens of Europe together, reaching out to all, regardless of age or social origin. Because of its important societal role, such as the improvement of public health, social inclusion, training, etc., and its economic dimension, sport could be an important contributor to the Europe 2020 Strategy that aims to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth3.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.31722 the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
See for instance WHO (2011): Promoting sport and enhancing health in European Union countries: a policy content analysis to support action.
The Commission staff working document on the EU and Sport: Background and context – accompanying document to the White Paper on Sport (COM (2007) 391 final).
Communication form the Commission: Developing the European Dimension in Sport. COM (2011).