Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spanish soccer and state aid

The European Commission has opened three distinct in-depth investigations to verify whether various public support measures in favour of certain Spanish professional football clubs are in line with EU state aid rules. None of the measures was notified to the Commission, who was alerted by concerned citizens. The Commission has concerns that these measures provided significant advantages to the beneficiary clubs to the detriment of the clubs which have to operate without such support. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives Spain and interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the measures under examination; it does not prejudge its outcome.
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "Professional football clubs should finance their running costs and investments with sound financial management rather than at the expense of the taxpayer. Member States and public authorities must comply with EU rules on state aid in this sector as in all economic sectors."
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Almunia, although he is an Athletic Bilbao fan and I am a Barça fan, and our clubs are among those investigated. Public subsidies for football clubs raise many interesting issues for welfare economics. It will be very interesting to follow this investigation together with my students in the course "Behaviour and Incentives in Economics: The Case of Soccer" in the Study Abroad programme of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

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