Madrid’s world record signing of Gareth Bale has increased pressure on the European Commission to rule in a long-running investigation into whether the Spanish club benefit from illegal state aid.
The EC’s competition office has spent almost four years probing claims that Real, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna unfairly benefit from being allowed to remain member-owned, not-for-profit clubs. Their domestic rivals are obliged to be plcs, meaning different tax rules.
Bale’s move from Tottenham, completed last week, has prompted questions about how Real can afford to spend £85m when Spain’s economy is still mired in recession, and whether they benefit from preferential treatment.
The European Ombudsman contacted the EC in May to express concern at the delay in a verdict. The competition office’s stated aim is to resolve urgent cases within a year.
A lawyer specialising in competition and EU regulatory law told City A.M. that complex cases could take several years but that a decision may now be imminent.
“This will be a very high-profile case so the commission will want to make sure they are on very solid legal ground,” said Daniel Geey, an associate at Field Fisher Waterhouse.
“If the ombudsman is hurrying the commission along it means a procedural aspect has not been carried out and suggests a resolution could be close.”
REVENUE RICH LIST
Real Madrid €513m £415m
Barcelona €483m £391m
Manchester United €396m £320m
Bayern Munich €368m £298m
Chelsea €323m £261m