Row over tax benefits for Spanish football heats up as Ombudsman slams EU Commission

European ombudsmen Emily O'Reilly has told the European Commission to stop dithering and come to a decision as to whether to open infringement proceedings against Spain, with regards to alleged unfair tax advantages for Spanish football clubs.

A complainant representing investors in other European football clubs has claimed that the Commission's failure to act so far could be linked to a certain commissioner's support for a Spanish football club. The plot thickens as the commissioner in question was formerly a minister in the Spanish government responsible for tax benefits at the time in question.

Emily O'Reilly said in a statement:

The Commission has failed to act on this complaint for more than four years. Not only is this bad administration, but to the European public it can look like a conflict of interest given the Commissioner's strong links to one of the football clubs in question. In my inquiry, I have not looked into the merits of the allegations concerning the breach of State Aid rules. I trust, however, that the Commission will decide to open an investigation tomorrow in order to investigate the facts and dispel any suspicions.

In 2009, complaints were made to the Commission that Spain was violating EU state aid rules by giving unfair tax benefits to four Spanish football clubs. These tax advantages are allegedly worth several billion euros.

A decision on whether to launch a formal investigation will be on the agenda of the College of Commissioners meeting on 8 December.