Spanish clubs in European illegal aid probe

Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:56am EST
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By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA (Reuters) - A three-pronged investigation will take place into alleged state aid for several La Liga clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Athletic Bilbao are one of the teams alleged by a representative of "several European clubs", in a complaint filed in 2009, to have benefited from unfair tax advantages along with Pamplona-based Osasuna and the world's two richest clubs by income, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The four have privileges regarding corporation tax as they are exempt from the general obligation for professional football clubs to convert into limited sports companies.

It means they have a preferential tax rate of 25 percent compared to 30 percent.

"Professional football clubs should finance their running costs and investments with sound financial management rather than at the expense of the taxpayer," read a statement from European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

"Member States and public authorities must comply with EU rules on state aid in this sector as in all economic sectors."

The European commission added in Wednesday's news release that another line of enquiry will be into the controversial deal between the City of Madrid and Real where the club sold their training ground for a considerable profit.

Land valued in 1998 at 595,000 euros ($817,000) was later put at 22.7 million euros, the Commission said.   Continued...

European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia addresses a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman