Sport and State Aid – Reining in the Populist Gesture

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Ken Daly, Jan 14, 2014

Sport’s ability to capture public attention and generate intense loyalties and rivalries is not overlooked by public representatives with budgets to spend. A recent focus by the European Commission on State Aid in sport has sought to reduce the risk of populist gestures causing controversy between Member States by clarifying how they may channel public money into their national sports teams and infrastructure without causing important distortions in economic (and ultimately sporting) competition.

However, at the very same time, as if to remind law-makers of sport’s uniquely political nature, an unprecedented controversy has erupted in which the European Ombudsman has accused the EU’s (Spanish) Commissioner for competition of maladministration for failing to initiate investigations into public support for some notable Spanish football clubs, including the club that the Commissioner is said to support.