Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – August 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.    


The Headlines

For the world of Sport, the elsewhere known “sleepy month” of August turned out to be the total opposite. Having only just recuperated from this year’s Tour de France, including a spectacular uphill sprint on bicycle shoes by later ‘Yellow Jersey’ winner Chris Froome, August brought another feast of marvellous sport (and subsequent legal drama): The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.More...


Sports arbitration and EU Competition law: the Belgian competition authority enters the arena. By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

On 14 July 2016, the Belgian competition authority refused to grant provisional measures to the White Star Woluwe Football Club (“The White Star”), which would have allowed it to compete in the Belgian top football division. The club was refused a licence to compete in the above mentioned competition first by the Licences Commission of the national football federation (“Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Foootball Association” or “URBSFA”) and then by the Belgian court of arbitration for sports (“Cour Belge d’Arbitrage pour le Sport” or “CBAS”). The White Star lodged a complaint to the national competition authority (“NCA”) and requested provisional measures. The Belgian competition authority rendered a much-overlooked decision (besides one commentary) in which it seems to accept the reviewability of an arbitral award’s conformity with EU competition law (articles 101 and 102 TFEU). More...

From Lord of the Rings to Lord of the Drinks – A legal take on the downfall of Yuri van Gelder at the Rio Olympics. By Guido Hahn (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Editor’s note: Guido graduated cum laude from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He teaches law at the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. He specializes in sports law and provides legal advice for the professional sports sector.


Introduction

This blog is a commentary on a recent case that hit like a bombshell in the Netherlands (and beyond) during the recent Olympic Games in Rio. The case concerns a Dutch athlete, Yuri van Gelder, who reached the Olympic finals in his sport, got sent home by ‘his’ NOC (NOC*NSF) after a night out in Rio and launched legal proceedings in front of a Dutch court to claim back his place in the finals. This commentary will attempt to explain the Dutch ruling and evaluate whether a different legal route would have been possible and preferable. More...


Bailing out your local football club: The Willem II and MVV State Aid decisions as blueprint for future rescue aid (Part 2)

This is part two of the blog on the Willem II and MVV State Aid decisions. Where part one served as an introduction on the two cases, part two will analyze the compatibility assessment made by the Commission in two decisions.


The compatibility of the aid to MVV and Willem II (re-)assessed

Even though it was the Netherlands’ task to invoke possible grounds of compatibility and to demonstrate that the conditions for such compatibility were met, the aid granted to both Willem II and MVV was never notified. The Netherland’s failure to fulfill its notification obligation, therefore, appears to be at odds with the Commission’s final decision to declare the aid compatible with EU law. Yet, a closer look at the Commission’s decision of 6 March 2013 to launch the formal investigation shows that the Commission was giving the Netherlands a ‘second chance’ to invoke grounds that would lead to a justification of the measures.More...


Bailing out your local football club: The Willem II and MVV State Aid decisions as blueprint for future rescue aid (Part 1)

The European Commission’s decisions of 4 July 2016 to order the recovery of the State aid granted to seven Spanish professional football clubs[1] were in a previous blog called historic. It was the first time that professional football clubs have been ordered to repay aid received from (local) public authorities. Less attention has been given to five other decisions also made public that day, which cleared support measures for five football clubs in the Netherlands. The clubs in question were PSV Eindhoven, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen, FC Den Bosch and Willem II.

Given the inherent political sensitivity of State aid recovery decisions, it is logical that the “Spanish decisions” were covered more widely than the “Dutch decisions”. Furthermore, clubs like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona automatically get more media attention than FC Den Bosch or Willem II. Yet, even though the “Dutch decisions” are of a lower profile, from an EU State aid law perspective, they are not necessarily less interesting.

A few days before entering the quiet month of August, the Commission published the non-confidential versions of its decisions concerning PSV Eindhoven, Willem II and MVV Maastricht (hereinafter: “MVV”). The swiftness of these publications is somewhat surprising, since it often takes at least three months to solve all the confidentiality issues. Nonetheless, nobody will complain (especially not me) about this opportunity to analyze in depth these new decisions. More...

Fear and Loathing in Rio de Janeiro – Displacement and the Olympics by Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

‎Editor's Note: Ryan is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University, he defended his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in December 2015. His dissertation examined human rights violations caused by international sporting events, and how international sporting organisations may be held accountable for these violations.

Introduction

On Sunday, August 21, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will end. The spotlight will dim not only on the athletes who return to their home countries to ply their trade in relative obscurity, but also on the country of Brazil.[1] Once the Games have ended, life will go ‘back to normal’, although for many residents of Rio de Janeiro, what is ‘normal’ is anything but. More...



Why we should stop focusing on Caster Semenya by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel)

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.  She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.

Over the past days, we have been flooded by media reports discussing the “Caster Semenya-case”, reports rapidly relayed in social networks. Since the debate has a distinct legal component and since almost every report appears to draw significantly from the legal background, I granted myself permission – as compensation so to speak - to publish a somewhat more personal, less legal, post than I usually would.

Let me make one thing clear from the outset – I am still ‘agnostic’ about the question of how to solve the issues surrounding the male versus female divide in sports. Each time I have been asked to write or speak on the subject, I have tried to stick to describing the legal situation and its implications. I do not have the miracle solution as to how to handle this infinitely complex issue. And I am not sure anyone can claim to hold that solution at this point. Like everyone, I am doing my research and trying to be humble enough to stay within the realm of my competences. More...




Sporting nationality and the Olympic Games: selected issues by Yann Hafner (University of Neuchâtel)

Editor’s note: Yann Hafner is a Phd researcher at the University of Neuchâtel specialized in sports and nationality issues. He is also Legal Affairs Manager at the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball. Yann is an editor of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog and has previously published on the blog on nationality conundrums at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil (see here).  

This contribution aims to decipher the relationship between sporting nationality and the Olympic Games. To this end, the author will first define sporting nationality and discuss athletes’ eligibility in national team in the context of the Olympic Games. Then, selected issues in relation with sporting nationality and the Olympic Games (with an emphasis on issues related to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games) will be investigated. More...



Regulating the human body in sports: Lessons learned from the Dutee Chand case - by Dr Marjolaine Viret & Emily Wisnosky

Editor's note: Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky are both editors of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog specialized in anti-doping matters, they are also involved in the World Anti-Doping Commentary project funded by the Swiss National Science Fund.

Introduction

A remarkable aspect of the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was the stream of negative media reports portraying broad-scale public mistrust in sport, with the most prominent topic being the doping scandals in athletics and questions surrounding the participation of Russia.  

A different controversy, but one also directed at the credibility of sports, has exposed a few female Olympians to repeated, and at times rather intrusive, media scrutiny. In June 2016, it was reported that Indian track-and-field athlete Dutee Chand had qualified for the Rio Olympic Games by breaking the national record, thus to become the first Indian athlete to run the 100m at the Olympics since 1980. The attention that Dutee Chand’s qualification attracted within international media, however, was not related only to her outstanding results. It came as part of a medical, ethical and legal controversy that has existed for many years relating to ‘policing’ the male versus female divide in sports. Another athlete who has found herself in the midst of this controversy is South African runner Semenya Caster, whose participation in the Olympics has been the object of much conjecture.

The divide between male and female athletes forms the core of most sports’ competition rules, including athletics. The justification for this basic divide has rarely been questioned as such, but has been a matter for debate when it comes to handling atypical situations on both sides of the ‘dividing line’ ­ such as ‘transgender’ or ‘intersex’ athletes. A category of athletes that has, especially, been viewed as a challenge to the divide is composed of female athletes affected by ‘hyperandrogenism’, a health condition that results in naturally elevated androgen levels, including testosterone levels.

On 24 July 2015, a CAS panel rendered a decision involving Dutee Chand (“Dutee Chand” or “the Athlete”) that has fuelled the ongoing debate about the policies regulating hyperandrogenism in sport. Much has been reported in the media about the case: controversial issues include whether the CAS was the appropriate forum to assess these questions; whether the decision was appropriate, both on the merits and on the procedure; and what the consequences of the CAS award would be, for the parties, for athletics and for the sporting community at large.

Much like the current crisis surrounding doping in sports, the public attention on women with (proven or suspected) hyperandrogenism is driven by a concern that an athlete’s physiology – natural or artificially induced ­ could distort competition, destroying the ‘level playing field’ that supports the Olympic ideal. Both topics are also often brought back to the goal of protecting an athlete’s health. Parallels are further found in the strong reactions both topics evoke, and the steps taken by the regulating authorities to convince the public that everything in their power is being done to preserve a level playing field.

A less obvious but equally important point of comparison can be found in the issues both topics raise concerning the legal validity of decisions made by sports organizations, especially in a science-related context. This blog focuses on those more ‘legal’ aspects, through the prism of the decision of the CAS in the Dutee Chand matter and its legal implications. After touching briefly on the background of the case, we will comment on two aspects of the Chand award with respect to challenges in regulating hyperandrogenism in sport within the confines of the law: First from the viewpoint of a CAS panel called upon to evaluate the validity of a set of regulations, and second from the viewpoint of the sports organizations seeking to both adequately protect fairness in sport and to provide a legally valid (and effective) regulatory solution.[1]

More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – July 2016 - By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we have overlooked. 

The Headlines

The McLaren Report on Russia’s State Doping System

It is difficult not to start this monthly report without referring to the never-ending Russian doping investigation that is shaking the sporting world. On 18 July, the independent investigation on Sochi 2014 winter Olympics led by Prof. McLaren, a Canadian law professor, and requested by the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”), released its report. It confirmed evidence of widespread, State-sponsored doping in Russian sports and called for a full ban on the country from the next Rio Olympics. In response to the report, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) vowed to take the “toughest sanctions available”. However, and despite the race against time in the run-up to Rio 2016, the IOC delayed its decision for several days amid a WADA statement and several press articles calling for a ban of Russia from Rio Olympics. Meanwhile, it did open an investigation against Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, the head official who allegedly supervised the overall doping cover up and explored all possible legal actions against Russia. On 21 July, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rejected the appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes against the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) decisions to suspend All Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) from IAAF membership given the evidence of a state-sponsored doping system. As a consequence, Russian track and field athletes were also banned from Rio 2016 Olympics. With the IAAF welcoming this decision, one could think that nothing was standing in the way of a full Olympic ban for all Russian athletes. While some Russian athletes announced that they would appeal the CAS award to the Swiss Federal Court. Yelena Isinbayeva, the banned pole vault champion, even took it a step further by claiming that she would challenge the IAAF decision as far as the European Court of Human Rights. Yet, it is very improbable that any of these challenges be decided in time for the Rio Games.More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

On 18 May 2016, the day the first part of this blog was published, the Commission said in response to the Hungarian MEP Péter Niedermüller’s question, that it had “not specifically monitored the tax relief (…) but would consider doing so. The Commission cannot prejudge the steps that it might take following such monitoring. However, the Commission thanks (Niedermüller) for drawing its attention to the report of Transparency International.”

With the actual implementation in Hungary appearing to deviate from the original objectives and conditions of the aid scheme, as discussed in part 1 of this blog, a possible monitoring exercise by the Commission of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme seems appropriate. The question remains, however, whether the Commission follows up on the intent of monitoring, or whether the intent should be regarded as empty words. This second part of the blog will outline the rules on reviewing and monitoring (existing) aid, both substantively and procedurally. It will determine, inter alia, whether the State aid rules impose an obligation upon the Commission to act and, if so, in what way.

In order to correctly decipher the potential consequences of Hungary’s behavior under EU State aid law, it is necessary to make a distinction between the part of the aid scheme declared compatible in the tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision, i.e. the donations for the sport infrastructures used by the professional sport organizations, and the donations used to cover personnel costs. Due to the fact that these two types of donation destinations were allowed based on two different exception procedures (the general exception found in Article 107(3)c) TFEU for the aid to sport infrastructure, and the General Block Exemption Regulation or the de minimis aid Regulation for the aid to cover personnel costs), the rules on reviewing and monitoring aid differ slightly. This blog will only focus on the review and monitoring rules of the tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision. 


Reviewing and monitoring State aid schemes – a Commission obligation?

A decision to approve an aid scheme (also known as a “positive decision” under Article 9(3) of the Procedural Regulation 2015/1589), should not fully release the Commission from any obligations regarding ex post control of that scheme. As can be read from Article 108(1) TFEU, “(t)he Commission shall, in cooperation with Member States, keep under constant review all systems of aid existing in those States. It shall propose to the latter any appropriate measure required by the progressive development or by the functioning of the internal market.”

The Commission’s responsibilities appear straightforward. After declaring the Hungarian tax benefit scheme compatible with EU law, it is obliged to review the implementation and usage of the aid by the Member State and the beneficiary, or beneficiaries. The CJEU settled as far back as 1974 that the Commission’s obligation to review existing aid is binding and that the Member States in question the obligation to cooperate with the Commission.[1] In fact, as Advocate General Lenz stated in his opinion in the Namur-Les Assurances du Crédit case, the Commission’s task to constantly review aid is even more necessary for aid schemes, like the Hungarian tax benefit scheme, as compared to individually authorized aid measures.[2] Pursuant to Article 108(1) TFEU and Article 21 of the Procedural Regulation, where the Commission considers that an existing aid scheme is not, or is no longer, compatible with the internal market instead of immediately launching a formal investigation, the Commission must issue a recommendation to the Member State concerned. The recommendation may propose, in particular:

  1. Substantive amendment of the aid scheme;
  2. Introduction of procedural requirements; or
  3. Abolition of the aid scheme.[3]

It is important to note that in accordance with Article 288 TFEU, fifth sentence, recommendations have no binding force. Therefore, the proposed measure itself is not binding for the Member State. Only where the Member State accepts the proposed measure, shall it be bound by its acceptance to implement the appropriate measure.[4] However, if the Member State refuses to accept and implement the recommendations, the Commission could launch a formal investigation in accordance with Article 108(2).[5] Article 108 (1) TFEU and Article 21 of the Procedural Regulation also require the Member States to cooperate with the Commission for the purpose of reviewing aid schemes. This cooperation is further specified in Article 26 of the Procedural Regulation, which obliges Member States to submit annual reports on existing aid schemes to the Commission.[6] The reports allow the Commission to monitor the compliance with the positive decision by the Member State. As was already discussed in part 1 of this blog, Hungary too is required to submit a yearly monitoring report containing information on the total aid amount allocated, the sport infrastructure projects funded, their beneficiaries, etc.[7] A failure by Hungary to submit an annual report, would allow the Commission to propose an appropriate measure as listed above.[8] Whether Hungary actually submits annual reports to the Commission is currently unclear.      


Monitoring the tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector – not as straightforward as it appears

The Commission has repeatedly expressed its ambition for more and better monitoring of State aid schemes. This ambition follows from its primary objective to increase Commission enforcement focus on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market, as can be read from, inter alia, the State Aid Modernisation (SAM) Communication of 2012. Better targeted State aid control means an “increased responsibility of Member States in designing and implementing aid measures” for cases of a more local nature and with little effect on trade, as well as “enhanced ex post monitoring by the Commission to ensure adequate compliance” with the State aid rules.[9] In 2006, the Commission introduced a regular, ex post, monitoring exercise of existing aid schemes. The monitoring exercise gradually increased from 20 different schemes in 2006, to 75 schemes in 2014, covering all Member States, all main types of aid approved as well as block-exempted schemes.[10] The monitoring exercises conducted in 2014 led to the openings of four formal investigations.[11] The willingness to increase monitoring seems logical when taking into account EU case law, which imposes, in practice, an obligation for the Commission to review previously approved aid schemes. Yet, only a very small amount of existing aid schemes is monitored, nor is it realistically possible to do monitor all the schemes. As can be read in the recently published DG Competition Management Plan 2016, over the last 10 years the Commission declared over 3000 aid schemes or measures compatible with EU law after a the preliminary phase (“decisions not to raise objections”) alone.[12] This amount does not take into account positive decisions or block exempted aid schemes and measures, all of which should, strictly speaking, be monitored. Exact numbers on the amount of existing aid schemes currently running throughout the EU are not available, but one could safely say that the overwhelming majority of existing aid schemes are not monitored. Unless the State aid department of the Commission dramatically increases its resources, both in terms of finances and staff, monitoring all existing State aid schemes will remain utopic.  


The “specificity” of State aid to the professional sport sector and why extra monitoring in the sector should be considered

The Hungarian tax benefit scheme is not functioning in accordance with its original objectives: many of the sport infrastructure projects funded with public money do not seem strictly necessary and selected professional football clubs benefitted disproportionately. Under these circumstances, a monitoring exercise conducted by the Commission could be needed. If a monitoring exercise confirms disproportionate spreading of subsidies, a consequent set of appropriate measures taken by Hungary could bring the scheme in line with its original objectives. However, given that the majority of schemes are not monitored, there is a very big chance that the Hungarian tax benefit scheme is not one of the “lucky ones” selected. It is also unclear whether the Commission’s answer to the Parliamentary question of 18 May in any way increases that probability.  


The State aid complaint procedure as an alternative

Another way to force the Commission to look into the aid scheme, not yet discussed above, is through a State aid complaint procedure. Although the tax benefit scheme was already approved by the Commission in 2011, this should not rule out the possibility of an interested party submitting a complaint to inform the Commission of any alleged unlawful aid.[13] Pursuant to Article 12(1), the Commission is obliged to examine without undue delay a complaint by an interested party, thereby automatically triggering the preliminary State aid investigation of Article 108(3) TFEU. Although ‘unlawful aid’ refers to new aid put into effect in contravention of Article 108(3) TFEU[14], and not existing aid, such as aid schemes authorized by the Commission[15], ‘new aid’ also refers to existing aid that has been altered by the Member State.[16] In accordance with the Commission’s State Aid Manual of Procedures, for an aid scheme to be altered, the complainant would need to demonstrate that a change has taken place that affects “the evaluation of the compatibility of the aid with the common market”.[17] In addition to this, the complaint would need to include, inter alia, information on the (functioning of) the scheme, the amount of aid granted, and why the scheme is no longer compatible under Article 107(3).[18] A further highly important criterion is for the interested party to demonstrate to the Commission that the complainant is directly affected in its “competitive position” by the aid scheme.[19] This criterion empowers the Commission to separate formal complaints from the complaints that are “not motivated by genuine competition concerns”, thereby reducing considerably its workload of having to launch a (preliminary) investigation based on every single complaint it receives.[20] Complaints submitted by complainants, who the Commission does not consider to be interested parties, will be regarded as “general market information”[21] and do not oblige the Commission to investigate.  


The “specificity” of State aid to professional sport – no complaints by other clubs

The “interested party” criterion was only added after the reform of the Procedural Regulation in 2013[22], and has affected the professional sport sector considerably. The two years prior saw great activity by the Commission in the sector, including the opening of four formal investigations into alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid and Valencia CF.[23] The investigations into alleged aid granted to Real Madrid and Valencia CF were not launched after the submission of a complaint by an interested party, but after “the attention of the Commission was drawn by press reports and information sent by citizens in 2012-2013”.[24] The end of formal investigations into alleged aid granted to professional sport clubs coincided with the introduction of the “interested party” criterion: since citizens are not considered interested parties, the Commission does not have an obligation anymore to investigate complaints, or any form of information, submitted by them. At this moment, only complaints submitted by interested parties, i.e. a party directly affected in its competitive position, have the potential of triggering fresh State aid investigations in the professional sport sector.[25]

Which persons or undertakings fulfill the “interested party” criterion? The answer to this question requires a case by case analysis and depends on the aid measure or scheme chosen by the public authorities.[26] Nonetheless, where aid is granted to a professional sport club, the clearest example of an interested party would be another professional sport club. Getting professional sport clubs to submit State aid complaints is, however, easier said than done. Contrary to other economic sectors where competitors would complain if they feel that they are directly affected in their competitive position, no professional sport club has ever submitted a State aid complaint, nor is it likely to happen anytime soon. As is confirmed by Dutch professional football club FC Groningen’s director Hans Nijland in an article published on 18 May by the Dutch magazine De Groene Amterdammer , “if (another football club) manages to sign a deal with its municipality, I will not complain. In fact, I would say congratulations, well done”.[27] The same mentality probably prevails in Hungary, making it very unlikely that a Hungarian professional football club, or any other professional sport club, decides to submit a complaint alleging unlawful aid to, say, Puskás Akadémia FC due to the disproportionate distribution of subsidies under the tax benefit scheme.  


Why extra monitoring in the sport sector should be considered

The advantages of EU State aid control include efficient government spending in the economy as well as better accountability and transparency of aid measures.[28] Nonetheless, with the chances of the Commission monitoring existing aid in professional sport, such as the Hungarian tax benefit scheme, being very slim, and given the unlikeliness of a submission of a complaint by a competing professional sport club, how useful are the State aid rules to achieve better accountability and transparency in (professional) sport? Local governments will continue spending large amounts of public money on projects that distort competition and are contrary to the general public interest, without a meaningful risk of being called back. Furthermore, as long as the Commission does not prioritize State aid enforcement to the professional sport sector, similar to how it enforces the State aid rules regarding fiscal aid to multinationals[29], it is also unlikely that it will investigate ex officio.

From the “efficient use of Commission resources” viewpoint, it is, in a way, understandable that the Commission has decided not to prioritize State aid to professional sport. They are, after all, not the most distortive State aid cases. However, this lack of prioritization is not being compensated with the submission of complaints by interested parties, meaning that public authorities have less to fear from State aid control in the professional sport factor, as compared to other market sectors.

To prevent a complete carte blanche for the public authorities, I would argue that the Commission should impose upon itself stricter conditions as regards monitoring State aid measures and scheme to the benefit of professional sport clubs. The current monitoring system, where the chance of being monitored is smaller than not being monitored, is inefficient in a sector where competitors do not serve as watchdogs. Only by radically increasing the monitoring chance in the professional sport sector can better accountability and transparency of aid measures be achieved.



[1] Case 173/73, Italy v Commission, [1974] ECLI:EU:C:1974:71, para 24.

[2] Opinion of Advocate General Lenz in Case C-44/93, Namur-Les Assurances du Crédit SA v Office Nationale du Ducroire , [1994] ECLI:EU:C:1994:262, para 86.

[3] Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 22. Contrary to the decision options of formal investigations, a decision to order a recovery of the aid from the beneficiary or beneficiaries, as listed in Procedural Regulation, Articles 9(5) and 16, is not an option for the “review procedure”.

[4] Ibid., Article 23(1).

[5] The Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) decision is a good example of a formal investigation based on ex post review and monitoring. Following a “selected” monitoring exercise in 2011, it was discovered that the UK had failed to take the appropriate measures to bring an aid scheme in line with the Commission Guidelines on Risk Capital , even though it had promised to do so. This led to the Commission opening a formal investigation in November 2011.

[6] Pursuant to Procedural Regulation, Article 26(1), the obligation to submit annual reports applies to decisions “to which no specific reporting obligations have been imposed in a conditional decision”. Under a conditional decision, the Commission attaches to a decision conditions subject to which aid may be considered compatible with the internal market. The tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision has no specific conditions attached to it, apart from the usual obligation for the Member State concerned to submit an annual report to the Commission.

[7] Commission Decision of 9 November 2011, SA.31722 – Hungary - Supporting the Hungarian sport sector via tax benefit scheme , para 57.

[8] Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 26(2).

[9] EU State Aid Modernisation Communication of 8 May 2012 , para 19.

[10] Commission Staff Working Document of 4 June 2015, “ Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Competition Policy 2014 ”, page 10.

[11] Ibid. One of the investigations involved the Enterprise Capital Funds scheme – Supra n5.

[12] DG Competition document of 18 March 2016 REF. Ares(2016)1370536 “ Management Plan 2016 ”, page 15.

[13] Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 24(2).

[14] Ibid., Article 1(f).

[15] Ibid., Article 1(b)(ii).

[16] Ibid., Article 1(c).

[17] Internal DG Competition working documents on procedures for the application of Articles 107 and 108 TFEU of 10 July 2013, State Aid Manual of Procedures , Section 5, para 1.2.1.

[18] A complaint that does not comply with the compulsory complaint form, or if the complainant does not provide sufficient grounds to show the existence of unlawful aid can be withdrawn by the Commission. See Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 24(2).

[19] Form for the Submission of Complaints Concerning Alleged Unlawful State Aid or Misuse of Aid , point 3.

[20] Draft Report by the European Parliament of 19 March 2013 on the proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 laying down detailed rules for the application of Article 93 of the EC Treaty (COM (2012) 725 final) , page 17.

[21] Supra., No 19.

[22] Council Regulation (EU) No 734/2013 of 22 July 20-13 amending Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 laying down detailed rules for the application of Article 93 of the EC Treaty [2013] OJ L204/14.

[23] An explanation on why the public financing of sports infrastructure and professional sports clubs only started to attract State aid scrutiny in recent years can be read in: Ben Van Rompuy and Oskar van Maren, EU Control of State Aid to Professional Sport: Why Now?” In: “The Legacy of Bosman. Revisiting the relationship between EU law and sport”, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2016.

[24] See, for example Commission decision of 18 December 2013, SA.36387 Spain – Alleged aid in favour of three Valencia football clubs, para 3. The other formal investigations to professional football clubs (i.e. Real Madrid , five Dutch football clubs and four Spanish football clubs ), were also launched after the Commission received information through citizens and/or the press.

[25] Or the Commission decides to open an investigation ex officio pursuant to Procedural Regulation 2015/1589, Article 12(1). However, this is very unlikely, given the lack of priority given by the Commission to sport.

[26] For example, in the case of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme, clubs or associations not active in the sport sector (e.g. theatre clubs, art clubs, etc.), could potentially argue that they have been placed in a disadvantageous position, since they cannot receive donations under the scheme. An aid measure provided in the form of advantageous land transactions, such as the Real Madrid case, could directly affect any undertaking interested in purchasing the same land, or any other plot of land against other market conditions.

[27] Hester den Boer and Bram Logger, “ Een spits van belastinggeld; Onderzoek – Lokale overheden blijven profvoetbal massaal steunen ”, De Groene Amsterdammer, 18 May 2016, page 5.

[28] See for example Oskar van Maren, EU State Aid Law and Professional Football: A threat or a Blessing?” , European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 15 1/2016, pages 31-46.

[29] High profile formal State aid investigations into alleged aid granted by means of selective tax agreements between Member State governments and multinationals like Starbucks, Fiat, Amazon or Apple, have launched in the last few years.

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