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EU State Aid Law and Professional Football: A Threat or a Blessing?

Oskar Van Maren

The European Commission’s decision to investigate alleged State aid granted to numerous professional football clubs in the Netherlands and Spain has caused a wave of criticisms. National public authorities and stakeholders of the football sector have insisted that none of the measures undertaken by the Netherlands and Spain constitute unlawful aid and that enforcing State aid rules in the football sector might result in greater legal uncertainty. Further critics maintain that the idea of European State aid rules is in itself counterproductive and that it does not take into account the individual cultures of the Member States or the specificity of the market sector in question.
This article will analyse whether the allegations of State aid can be substantiated. In order to do so, it will focus on the way the Commission has implemented the State aid rules in the sport sector in general. The study of the Commission’s past decisions will provide the legal background to understand the extent to which professional football clubs and national public authorities should be concerned about the application of EU State aid law in the football sector.
Keywords: State Aid Law and Policy; Sport; Professional Football; Compatibility Assessment; Sports-Specific State Aid Framework.

Oskar van Maren is Researcher in International and European Sports Law at T.M.C. Asser Instituut, the Netherlands. Email:


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