Spain: EU to launch probe into Spanish football
Spain’s foreign minister said Monday that the European Union
will open legal proceedings this week into financial support for
Real Madrid, Barcelona and several other top Spanish clubs to see
if it meets EU state aid standards.
Jose Manuel Garcia-Margello said his ”government is going to
give battle until the end to defend Spanish clubs,” arguing they
are an essential part of ”the Spanish brand.”
The EU refused to comment on the case, but said Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia would have a news conference on
unspecified issues on Wednesday.
A financial probe into several Spanish league clubs could have
major repercussions since many of them are in financial
difficulties. If such aid is deemed illegal the clubs would have to
return the money.
Garcia-Margello said other clubs were Valencia, Hercules, Elche,
Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna.
If official proceedings are launched this week, it could take
several months for arguments and counter-arguments before a full
ruling is reached. Even then, parties could challenge it before the
EU’s highest court in Luxembourg.
Garcia-Margello said the government had already prepared
arguments in case Almunia sets the process in motion on
No financial figures were immediately available but the
objections the EU was looking into centered on how clubs and local
authorities handled fiscal issues such as loan guarantees, land
prices and real estate deals.
Barcelona spokesman Toni Freixa said the probe was baseless and
that the Spanish champion had ”never received any type of public
The Spanish league has said in a statement that it ”wants to
publicly show its unconditional and absolute support for the clubs
and affiliated managing institutions in general and those under
investigation in particular.”
Garcia-Margello said neither the Spanish government nor the
clubs had done anything wrong.
”There is nothing that is irregular in any of the cases
mentioned,” he said.
Joseph Wilson contributed to this report from Barcelona.
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