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European Commission - Press release
State aid: Vice President Almunia and UEFA President Platini confirm Financial Fair-Play rules in professional football are in line with EU state aid policy
Brussels, 21 March 2012 - Vice President Joaquín Almunia and UEFA President Michel Platini today issued a joint statement on the interaction between the application to professional football of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules by UEFA and the control of State aid in professional football by the Commission. Both disciplines seek to achieve a situation in which professional football clubs live within their own means. The joint statement provides a basis for further cooperation between the Commission and UEFA with a view to promoting fair competition between football clubs.
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia commented: "I am a football fan and I hope that future generations will also be able to watch and enjoy first class professional football based on solid grounds. I am deeply concerned by the increasing level of indebtedness of many European clubs. This situation is not sustainable. Both EU state aid rules and UEFA objectives help introduce discipline and rationality in football club finances."
Professional football clubs pursue their activities in many markets: participation in competitions; buying, selling and leasing players; sponsoring; merchandising; broadcasting and publicity agreements and others. Public financial support (state aid) to such clubs is therefore likely to distort competition and affect trade between Member States. Such aid is in principle incompatible with the internal market and can only be authorised under strict conditions. Any aid must, furthermore, be notified to the Commission in advance. In fact, very few aid measures to professional football clubs have so far been notified to the Commission.
When their finances are not soundly managed and, as a result, football clubs experience financial difficulties, there is a particular risk that public authorities may be tempted to grant state aid. The joint statement announces that the Commission and UEFA will cooperate and discuss issues such as the fiscal treatment of clubs and the treatment of clubs receiving rescue and restructuring aid from public authorities.
UEFA's Annual benchmarking reports show a worrying increase in losses and indebtedness of professional football clubs. Both UEFA and the European Commission are concerned that clubs in the short term pay inflated wages for players, even when their true financial position should not allow them to do so. Such a policy seems particularly unjustified in the context of the current economic downturn where austerity measures are being introduced in all Member States. The central objective of FFP (namely to "live within your means" or "break even") ensures prudent economic management that will serve to protect both the interests of individual clubs and players as well as the football sector in Europe as a whole. This principle is also consistent with the aims and objectives of European Union policy in the field of State aid.
The two letters and the joint statement may be consulted under the DG Competition website.