EU state aid probe 'not anti-Spain campaign'

Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:42am EST
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - A European Commission probe into possible illegal state aid to seven Spanish soccer clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona is not part of a malicious campaign against Spain, one of the complainants said on Friday.

Loek Jorritsma, a retired senior policy adviser at the Netherlands ministry of sports, made a formal complaint in 2010 highlighting what he believed was illegal aid to clubs in his native Holland as well as to Real.

The Commission opened an investigation into five Dutch clubs, including PSV Eindhoven, in March and launched a separate probe into Real, Barca, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna, Valencia, Elche and Hercules on Wednesday.

The announcement of the Spanish investigation prompted a furious response, with some claiming it was driven by envy at the world and European champions' recent successes.

Real president Florentino Perez labeled it "a campaign against Spanish football" and said the world's richest club by income had done nothing wrong, while secretary of state for sports Miguel Cardenal complained of "damage to Spain's image".

Jorritsma said his motivation was to identify possible instances of illegal state aid to professional clubs wherever they occurred in Europe.

"It's a campaign on behalf of competitive balance, against foul play and for a level playing field, which is disturbed by state aid," Jorritsma told Reuters.

"I treat the Dutch clubs and all European clubs the same way," the 70-year-old added.   Continued...