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European Commission - Press release

State aid: Commission clears support measures for certain football clubs in the Netherlands

Brussels, 4 July 2016

After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded 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, in charge of competition policy,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 isnot 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."

In March 2013, the Commission opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether measures granted by five municipalities in the Netherlands in favour of professional football clubs complied with EU State aid rules. EU State aid rules apply to public interventions in the market to ensure that they do not distort competition by selectively favouring one market participant over another. Professional sport is an economic activity. Football clubs conduct marketing, merchandising, TV broadcasting, transfer of players etc., and compete at international level. 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 who have to operate without subsidies.

As the clubs under investigation were in financial difficulties, the Commission assessed the measures in the light of the 2004 Guidelines on State aidfor rescuing and restructuringfirms in difficulty. The Guidelines aim to ensure that rescue and restructuring aid only goes to companies that have a realistic viability prospect and that take measures to alleviate the distortions of competition caused by the State support.

The Commission's investigation found that a realistic restructuring plan had been implemented for the football clubs Den Bosch, MVV, NEC and Willem II. The clubs significantly contributed to the cost of their restructuring and agreed to take measures limiting the distortions of competition created by the public funding, such as reducing the number of employees, the number of registered players and players' wages.

The Commission also investigated the sale and lease back transaction of the municipality of Eindhoven in favour of PSV Eindhoven concerning the land on which the Philips stadium and a training block were built. The Commission found that this transaction had been carried out on terms acceptable to a market investor. In its assessment the Commission took account of an independent external valuation report that formed the basis of the transaction.

The Commission therefore concluded that the measure concerning PSV Eindhoven involves no State aid within the meaning of the EU rules and that the measures concerning Den Bosch, MVV, NEC and Willem II were in line with the 2004 Guidelines on State aidfor rescuing and restructuringfirms in difficulty.

 

The following table gives an overview of the specific measures covered by the decisions:

Name of club

Year of measure

Description

NEC

2010

The municipality of Nijmegen bought a claim made by NEC with regard to the multifunctional sports complex De Eendracht for €2.2 million.

MVV

2010

The municipality of Maastricht waived a claim of €1.7 million on MVV and bought the football stadium and training grounds for €1.85 million.

Willem II

2010

The municipality of Tilburg lowered the rent of the stadium with retroactive effect. The total advantage for Willem II amounts to €2.4 million.

PSV

2011

The municipality of Eindhoven bought the land under the stadium and the training block from PSV for €48.385 million. PSV pays an annual fee to lease the stadium ground, the ground under the training complex and a parking lot.

FC Den Bosch

2011

The municipality of Den Bosch agreed on a debt-to-equity swap with the football club and other private creditors and then transferred its claim of €1.65 million for €1 to the foundation Stichting Met Heel Mijn Hart. The municipality also bought training facilities for €1.4 million.

 

The Commission has also today adopted decisions concerning State aid to seven Spanish football clubs.

Background

Public interventions in favour of market actors that carry out economic activities can be considered free of State aid within the meaning of EU rules when they are made on terms that a private operator would have accepted under market conditions (the market economy investor principle). If this principle is not respected, the public interventions constitute State aid within the meaning of the EU rules (Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU), because they confer an economic advantage on the beneficiary that its competitors do not have. The Commission then assesses whether such aid is compatible with the common EU rules that allow certain categories of aid.

For companies in difficulty, aid can be authorised under the conditions set out in the EU Rescue and Restructuring Guidelines. These Guidelines aim to ensure that rescue and restructuring aid only goes to companies that have a realistic viability prospect and that take measures to alleviate the distortions of competition brought about by the State support. The Rescue and Restructuring Guidelines apply to professional football clubs.

Under the revised 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation, Member States do not have to notify small-scale support measures in favour of sport infrastructure from prior State aid scrutiny, as long as that infrastructure is open for use by the general public.

The non-confidential version of the decisions will be made available under the case numbers, SA.40168 (Willem II), SA.41612 (MVV), SA.41614 (Den Bosch), SA.41617 (NEC) and SA.41613 (PSV) in the State Aid Register on the 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.

IP/16/2402

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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