March 6, 2013 / 11:02 AM / 6 years ago

EU to investigate aid to Dutch football clubs

European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia speaks during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will investigate whether financial support given to five Dutch football clubs complies with EU rules on state aid, the European Union’s competition watchdog said on Wednesday.

The in-depth investigation, which centres on clubs NEC Nijmegen, MVV Maastricht, Willem II Tilburg, PSV Eindhoven and FC Den Bosch, concerns deals done between the clubs and the local council, often involving real estate transactions.

In one case, the council of Eindhoven bought and leased back land worth 48.4 million euros (41.77 million pounds) from local club PSV, the Commission said.

“I strongly believe that professional football clubs should be well managed and not ask for help from the tax-payer when facing financial difficulties,” Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

The Commission would assess the aid given on the basis of the EU guidelines for rescue and restructuring aid to firms in difficulty, it said.

However, the Commission concluded that Arnhem-based club Vitesse did not receive state aid when the council accepted non-payment of 11.7 million euros of claims because this was how a private creditor would have acted in the case of a formal suspension of payments.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek

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