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Spanish Professional Football Clubs: How Salient Is the Exact Nature of the Aid? · Cases T-865/16 FC Barcelona v Commission, C-362/19 P Commission v FC Barcelona, T-791/16 Real Madrid CF v Commission, T-766/16 Hércules CF v Commission, T-732/16 Valencia journal article

Annotation on the Judgments of the General Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case T-865/16 FC Barcelona v Commission (GC, 26 February 2019), C-362/19 P Commission v FC Barcelona (CJEU, 4 March 2021), T-791/16 Real Madrid CF v Commission (GC, 22 May 2019), T-766/16 Hércules CF v Commission (GC, 20 March 2019), T-732/16 Valencia CF v Commission (GC, 12 March 2020), T-901/16 Elche CF v Commission (GC, 12 March 2020)

Jacob Kornbeck

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 20 (2021), Issue 1, Page 120 - 138

Five judgments handed down by the General Court (GC), in 2019-20, and by the Court of Justice, in 2021, have clarified aspects of three Commission State aid decisions regarding Spanish professional football clubs, through preferential tax rates applicable to non-profit organisations (Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Osasuna) and land transactions between municipal and regional authorities and private entities (Real Madrid) and financial guarantees offered by public authorities to private entities (Hércules CF, Valencia CF, Elche CF). Not only questions of substance were clarified but also procedural ones. Two GC rulings were appealed to the Court. The specificity of sport (Article 165 TFEU) does not appear to have been instrumental in shaping any of the judgments annotated.


Valencia Club de Fútbol: Every Advantage Has Its Disadvantage (and Vice Versa) · Case T-732/16 Valencia Club de Fútbol · Annotation by Doortje Ninck Blok and Gerard van der Wal journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the EU General Court (Fourth Chamber) of 12 March 2020 in Case T-732/16 Valencia Club de Fútbol

Doortje Ninck Blok, Gerard van der Wal

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 20 (2021), Issue 2, Page 284 - 291

The General Court handed down a judgement in 2020 in which it annulled the Commission’s Decision regarding State aid granted to Valencia Club de Fútbol through a €75 million (regional) government guarantee. The Commission qualified the guarantee granted by a financial entity under the supervision of the Regional Government of Valencia, intended to cover the bank loans to Fundación Valencia to enable Fundación Valencia to acquire shares in Valencia Club de Fútbol (the beneficiary according to the Commission and General Court), as unlawful state aid in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. This annotation elaborates on two pleas brought forward by Valencia Club de Fútbol: (i) manifest errors of assessment in the characterisation of an advantage and (ii) manifest errors of assessment when calculating the amount of aid. The General Court considered that the Commission made an error of assessment when applying the market economy operator principle, where the Commission did not carry out an overall assessment. Furthermore, the Commission did not sufficiently support the finding that there was no market price for a similar non-guaranteed loan. In their conclusion, the annotators address the application of the Guarantee Notice by the Commission.


Football Glory, Credit Crisis and State’s Paternalism · Case T-766/16 Hércules CF v European Commission · Annotation by Begoña Pérez Bernabeu journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Fourth Chamber) of 20 March 2019 in Case T-766/16 Hércules CF v European Commission.

Begoña Pérez Bernabeu

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 4, Page 549 - 554

Football is the most famous sport all around the globe and is also of great social and cultural significance. For this reason, State authorities may be tempted to provide additional support to professional football clubs which find themselves in an acute financial crisis through direct or indirect (like guarantees, tax or levies exemptions, loans on more favourable terms, transactions under non-market conditions) support measures. However, the football sector is not special for competition rules and the Commission has recently begun to enforce State aid rules in football. In the Hércules CF judgment, the General Court studies a situation that perfectly fits in the above-described situation since it analyses the grant of a public guarantee to a professional football club which is in a difficult financial position. Finally, the General Court annulled the Commission’s Decision on formal grounds on the basis of a comprehensive approach of the proof assessment carried out by the Commission. Keywords: Football; Indirect financial support; Guarantee; Loan; Lack of motivation.


Assessing the Standard of Proof in Fiscal State Aid journal article

Red Card to the Commission

Begoña Pérez Bernabeu

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 4, Page 447 - 457

The General Court annulled the Commission’s Decision qualifying as State aid a tax regime granted by Spain to certain Spanish professional football clubs (namely, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid FC, Athletic Bilbao and Club Atlético Osasuna). The General Court took the view that the Commission had not proven that the tax regime had the effect of conferring an actual economic advantage on these four clubs. This judgment is highly significant because, without ruling on most of the substantive issues of the Case, it is the first time that criteria on the burden and standard of proof incumbent on the Commission are so clearly stated, particularly in the field of State aid. Moreover, this General Court’s approach is supported by recent and later Case law under which the Commission is required to carry out a complete analysis of all the factors that are relevant to the measure at issue. Keywords: Burden of proof; Standard of proof; Tax advantage; Football; Sports.

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