thumbnail Hello,

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into allegations of misuse of public funding at five Dutch clubs, including Eredivisie leader PSV Eindhoven.

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into allegations of misuse of public funding at five Dutch clubs, including Eredivisie leader PSV Eindhoven.

PSV, along with fellow Eredivisie clubs NEC Nijmegen and Willem II Tilburg, have been pinpointed by the Commission – as have Eerste Divisie outfits MVV Maastricht and FC Den Bosch. The Commission’s investigation is designed to establish whether the measures taken by the five Dutch municipalities in favour of the clubs comply with EU State aid rules. None of those measures, taken in 2010 and 2011, were notified to the Commission, which said it was alerted by “concerned citizens”.

PSV’s case stems from the Municipality of Eindhoven’s purchase of land from the club for Eur48.385 million in 2011 – land that was subsequently leased back to the club. In a statement on Wednesday, PSV said the deal was concluded as part of financial restructuring measures, adding that it was confident it complied with EU rules and that the club would fully cooperate with any investigation. The Commission said in a statement: “In so far as the professional football clubs in question were facing financial difficulties at the time of the measures and the municipalities acted to address those difficulties, the aid must be assessed on the basis of the EU Guidelines for rescue and restructuring aid to firms in difficulty. At this stage of the procedure, the Commission has doubts whether the measures comply with those guidelines.”

The Commission said it is also looking at measures in other member states which were brought to its attention and sent a request for information to all member states concerning professional football in October 2012. The Commission’s vice-president in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia added: “I strongly believe that professional football clubs should be well managed and not ask for help from the tax-payer when facing financial difficulties. If financial support is nevertheless given, then it should be granted under the EU State aid rules for aid to companies in difficulty. As regards these five football clubs, we have doubts that this has been the case.”

From the web