Real and Barca to face EU state aid probe
17.12.13 @ 09:45
BRUSSELS - Football giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are among seven top Spanish clubs to be targeted by a state aid probe to be launched on Wednesday (18 December) by the European Commission.
Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, in Brussels Monday for a meeting, said that the commission would formally announce the probe on Wednesday (18 December).
He added that the Spanish government would oppose any sanctions against its clubs. Both the clubs and the government will have a month to respond to the charges, although the case could then take a number of months.
"The government will fight to the last to defend Spanish clubs because they are also part of the Spanish brand," he said.
Barca, Real, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao are accused of having received special tax treatment because of their legal status as clubs owned by members rather than shareholders, Margallo said.
Real and Athletic also face investigation over agreements related to their training facility and new stadium respectively.
Meanwhile, Valencia, Elche and Hercules will be investigated because of alleged loans and bank guarantees offered to them by regional government.
For his part, Barcelona's spokesman Toni Freixa told Spanish media that "I don't understand the basis for this investigation, should it come about."
He added that Barcelona's business structure was in line with Spanish law.
Despite being one of the most popular and financially lucrative leagues in the world, the financial situation of Spain's football clubs is very precarious.
The 20 clubs in La Liga, the country's top division, have debts estimated at €3.5 billion, while 22 of the country's 42 clubs in the top two divisions have been placed in administration over the past two years.
But Spanish clubs are not the only ones to face a probe from the EU executive over state aid rules.
In March the commission opened an investigation into five Dutch clubs, including PSV Eindhoven, one of the countries biggest teams.
The EU does not have law-making powers in the sports policy field but the treaties require EU legislation to take account of the "specificity" of sport when implementing EU law.