EU Control of State Aid to Professional Sport: Why Now?

  • Ben Van RompuyEmail author
  • Oskar van Maren
Part of the ASSER International Sports Law Series book series (ASSER)


In the aftermath of the Bosman judgment, the application of the free movement and antitrust rules to the sports sector rapidly intensified and deepened. Until very recently, however, the application of the EU State aid rules remained an anomaly in the story of ‘European sports law’. This chapter aims to explain why the public financing of sports infrastructure and professional sports clubs only in recent years started to attract State aid scrutiny. Considering the general policy dynamics of European State aid control, it is argued that the late appearance of enforcement efforts is not as remarkable as it may appear. The extension of the reach of State aid control to new sectors or new forms of aid has typically been the result of external constraints on the European Commission’s independent agenda-setting abilities. In the case of sport, it was primarily the case law of the EU courts that triggered the sudden surge in formal investigations and decisional practice.


State aid law and policy Sport Professional football clubs Sports infrastructure European commission Enforcement discretion Prioritisation Complaint handling 


  1. Aydin U (2014) Issue framing in the European Commission: State aid policy and the single market. 12 Comp Eur Politics 2:141–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blauberger M (2009) Of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ subsidies: European State aid control through soft and hard law. West Eur Polit 32(4):719–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cini M (2001) The soft law approach: Commission rule-making in the EU’s State aid regime. J Eur Public Policy 8(2):192–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Craven R (2014) Football and State aid: too important to fail? Int Sports Law J 2014(3–4):205–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Daley K (2014) Sport and State aid—reining in the populist gesture. Competition Policy Int Antirust Chronicle 1:2–6Google Scholar
  6. Gerlinger M (2003) Stadiums for FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 and European law on State aid: a case of infrastructure measures? Int Sports Law J 2003(1):9–12Google Scholar
  7. Koenig C, Haratasch A (2004) The logic of infrastructure funding under EC State aid control. 3 Eur State Aid Law Q 3:393–398Google Scholar
  8. Koenig C, Kühling J (2003) Infrastrukturförderung im Ausschreibungsverfahren—EG-beihilfenrechtlicher Königsweg der Kompensation von gemeinwirtschaftlichen Pflichten. Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt 5:289–298Google Scholar
  9. Martínez Navarro M (2014) The Ombudsman decision on the State-aid complaint concerning spanish football clubs: the Ombudsman as an alternative route for State-aid and anti-trust complainants? 6 J Eur Competition Law Pract 2:99–101Google Scholar
  10. Merola M, Armati L (2013) Complainants’ rights in State aid matters: lost in modernisation? Global Competition Law Centre Working Paper 01/13:5–10Google Scholar
  11. Nicolaides P (2002) Control of State aid in the European Union compliance, sanctions and rational behaviour. 25 World Competition, Issue 3:249–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pastor Merchante F (2014) The role of competitors in the enforcement of State aid law. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, European University Institute, FlorenceGoogle Scholar
  13. Pauwels C, De Vinck S, Van Rompuy B (2007) Lost in liberalisation? Can State aid in the film sector stand the proof of EU and WTO liberalisation efforts? In: Sarikakis K (ed) Media and cultural policy in the European Union. Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp 23–44Google Scholar
  14. Piernas López JJ (2015) The concept of State aid under EU law: from internal market to competition and beyond. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Quigley C (2015) European State aid law and policy. Hart Publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Rawlinson F (1993) The role of policy frameworks, codes and guidelines in the control of State aid. In: Harden I (ed) State aid: community law and policy. Cologne, Bundesanzeiger, pp 57–58Google Scholar
  17. Santamato S, Westerhof JG (2003) Is funding of infrastructure State aid? 21 Europäische Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht 645–648Google Scholar
  18. Schaefer K, Kreile J, Gerlach S (2002) Nationale Filmförderung: Einfluss und Grenzen des europäischen Rechts. 46 Zeitschrift für Urheber- und Medienrecht 3:182–194Google Scholar
  19. Siebold M, Klingmüller A (2004) Sports facility financing and development trends in Europe and Germany 2003. 15 Marquette Sports Law Rev 2004:88Google Scholar
  20. Smith MP (1998) Autonomy by the rules: the European Commission and the development of State aid policy. 36 J Common Market Stud 1:58–60Google Scholar
  21. Smith MP (2001) How adaptable is the European Commission? The case of State aid regulation. J Public Policy 21(03):219–238Google Scholar
  22. Stefan OA (2012) Hybridity before the court: a hard look at soft law in the EU competition and State aid case law. 37 Eur Law Rev 1:49–96Google Scholar
  23. Van den Bogaert S (2010) Bosman: the genesis of European sports law. In: Maduro M, Azoulai L (eds) The past and future of EU law: the classics of EU law revisited on the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaty. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp 488–498Google Scholar
  24. Van Maren O (2015) The Real Madrid case: a State aid case (un)like any other? 11 Competition Law Rev 1:83–108Google Scholar
  25. Van Rompuy B (2015) The role of EU competition law in tackling abuse of regulatory power by sports associations. 22 Maastricht J Eur Comp Law 2:179–208Google Scholar
  26. Weatherill S (2010) Bosman changed everything: the rise of EC sports law. In: Maduro M, Azoulai L (eds) The past and future of EU law: the classics of EU law revisited on the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaty. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp 480–487Google Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.T.M.C. Asser InstituutThe HagueThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Vrije Universiteit BrusselIxellesBelgium
  3. 3.T.M.C. Asser InstituutThe HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations