Spanish clubs forced to repay unfair state aid

The Olympic Stadium Coalition (of which CAS Trust is a leading member) has yet to comment fully on the contract between the LLDC and West Ham United which was finally published in April after the LLDC's appeal against The Information Commissioner's ruling that it should be made public was dismissed.

Apart from the matter of the use of public money to convert the stadium and contribute to its future costs there is also the issue of "unfair state aid". This is part of EU law that prohibits states from giving financial support to an "economic activity". It may be the case that the public money for The Olympic Stadium constitutes unfair state aid.

The European Commission have ruled that Real Madrid, Barcelona and five other Spanish clubs must repay tens of millions of euros after finding that they had received "unfair" financial aid from their government. The EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager said:

"Using taxpayers' 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."

The EC ruled that an overpriced land deal with local authorities in Madrid was unfairly tilted in Real Madrid's favour. When in financial difficulty Valencia, Hercules and Elche all benefitted from loans from the state-owned Valencia Institute of Finance on terms not available to other clubs. None of them had been obliged to trim their costs which the Commissioner ruled had given them an unfair advantage over their rivals.

Separately, the Commission announced that it was closing an investigation into five Dutch clubs which had received state aid from Dutch municipalities after running into financial trouble. This was deemed to be within EU rules because the clubs had taken action to reduce losses by cutting costs.

A spokesman for The Commission said that no other state aid investigations were currently ongoing.