Forskargruppe for europarett

Professional football and State aid

Vice President Almunia and UEFA President Platini on Financial Fair-Play rules.


On 21 March 2012 Vice President Joaquín Almunia and UEFA President Michel Platini issued a joint statement on the interaction between the application to professional football of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules by UEFA and the control of State aid in professional football by the European Commission. According to the statement the FFP rules are in compliance with the EU/EEA State aid regime. The joint statement is also a basis for further cooperation between the European Commission and UEFA. Its main objective is to promote fair competition between football clubs.

Professional football clubs pursue their activities in many markets. They participate in competitions, buy, sell and lease players. In addition, they are engaged in sponsoring, merchandising and broadcasting. The increasing level of their indebtedness is a concern to both UEFA and the European Commission. They note that clubs in the short term pay inflated wages for players, even when their true financial position should not allow them to do so. Under such circumstances the Member States can be tempted to grant them public financial support (state aid), which can distort competition and affect trade in the internal market.

State measures that fall under Article 107(1) TFEU (Article 61(1) EEA) amount to state aid and are in principle incompatible with the internal market. They can only be authorised by the Commission (the EFTA Surveillance Authority, the ESA) under strict conditions. Moreover, any aid must be notified to the Commission (the ESA) in advance and must not be granted before it is declared compatible (notification obligation and standstill clause). In fact, very few measures that have been granted to professional football clubs and that constitute state aid have been so far been notified. The joint statement announces that the Commission and UEFA will cooperate and discuss issues such as the fiscal treatment of clubs and the treatment of clubs receiving rescue and restructuring aid from public authorities.

For more information see Competition and sports.