EU Control of State Aid to Professional Sport: Why Now?

24 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2016 Last revised: 30 Jun 2017

See all articles by Ben Van Rompuy

Ben Van Rompuy

Leiden University - Leiden Law School

Oskar van Maren

T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Date Written: February 1, 2016


In the aftermath of the Bosman judgment of the European Court of Justice (1995), the application of the EU free movement and antitrust rules to the sports sector rapidly intensified and deepened. Until very recently, however, the application of the EU State aid rules remained an anomaly in the story of ‘European sports law’.

This paper aims to explain why the public financing of sports infrastructure and professional sports clubs only in recent years started to attract State aid scrutiny.

Considering the general policy dynamics of European State aid control, it is argued that the late appearance of enforcement efforts is not as remarkable as it may appear. The extension of the reach of State aid control to new sectors or new forms of aid has typically been the result of external constraints on the European Commission’s independent agenda-setting abilities. In the case of sport, it was primarily the case law of the EU courts that triggered the sudden surge in formal investigations and decisional practice.

Keywords: Competition law, State aid, sport, professional football clubs, infrastructure, European Commission, enforcement discretion, prioritisation, complaint handling

JEL Classification: K, K42, K21

Suggested Citation

Van Rompuy, Ben and van Maren, Oskar, EU Control of State Aid to Professional Sport: Why Now? (February 1, 2016). T.M.C. Asser Institute for International & European Law 2016-01, Forthcoming in: The Legacy of Bosman. Revisiting the relationship between EU law and sport” (T.M.C. Asser Press, 2016) , Available at SSRN:

Ben Van Rompuy (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Leiden Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA

Oskar Van Maren

T.M.C. Asser Instituut ( email )

P.O. Box 30461
2500 GL The Hague, 2517JN

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