Brussels, 20 November 2013
State aid: Commission clears Belgian support scheme for football stadiums
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a support scheme for the construction or renovation of football stadiums in the Belgian regions of Flanders and Brussels. The stadiums are to be used by first and second league football clubs. The Commission concluded that, in line with EU objectives, the scheme will make sport more accessible for citizens, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
The aim of the scheme is to improve the quality of the stadiums by ensuring that they meet UEFA criteria for European football games while at the same time putting the social role of football high on the agenda of professional football clubs.
The scheme runs from 2014 to 2017 and has a total budget of €8 million. Qualifying projects can benefit from a one-time grant of 10% of the investment amount, with a maximum per selected project of €2.5 million for new constructions and of €750 000 for renovation projects. Projects are selected through an open selection procedure. In order to qualify for funding under the scheme, applicants must not only demonstrate that the new or renovated stadium fulfils UEFA criteria, but also that it will contribute to broader societal goals, in particular that it will benefit the neighbourhood and that it will be available for use by broader target groups. This could include initiatives for fitness and health, educational projects, integration projects or organisation of other sports or cultural events.
The scheme contains several safeguards to minimise distortions of competition. Football clubs and other professional users of the stadium will have to pay adequate prices for the use of the supported infrastructure, based on a benchmark. In addition, aid can be granted only if it is established that there is an effective need to construct or renovate the stadium, taking into account the geographic distribution of stadiums. Moreover, any football stadium receiving state aid under the scheme shall be multifunctional and used for broader societal goals. Finally, solid monitoring and control mechanisms are set up to ensure the proper implementation of the scheme.
The Commission therefore concluded that the measure is in line with EU state aid rules.
Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows Member States to grant aid for the development of certain economic activities, provided that it does not adversely affect trading conditions.
The sports sector has enormous potential for bringing the citizens of Europe together, reaching out to all, regardless of age or social origin1. Sport has an educational role, as well as a social, cultural and health dimension. The Amsterdam Declaration on Sport and Article 165 of the TFEU both acknowledge the social significance of sport: "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".
Public support to sport infrastructure used by professional clubs must comply with EU state aid rules. This is the second support scheme for sports infrastructure that the Commission has cleared under the state aid rules. In November 2011, the Commission authorised a scheme set up by Hungary (see IP/11/1322).
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.37109 in 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 also Commission staff working document on the EU and Sport: Background and context – accompanying document to the White Paper on Sport (COM (2007) 391 final).