Real Madrid and six other clubs must settle up shady state aid

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CHICKEN FEED: Real must fork out less than half of Cristiano Ronaldo’s annual salary, equivalent to a fifth of what they paid for Welsh whizz-kid Gareth Bale.

REAL MADRID and Barcelona are among a group of seven football clubs who must repay 10s of millions of euros, after the European Commission ruled that they have received preferential financial aid from the Spanish government.

The amounts involved represent a drop in the water for the clubs involved, with Real and Barcelona earning a combined €1.14 billion in the 2014-2015 season, and being ordered to give back €18.4 million and €5 million, respectively, amounts which would represent small potatoes for Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns around €45 million per year.

Madrid received the cash as compensation for a land transfer that never happened, whereas both they and Barcelona have been offered tax privileges for over 20 years, with a €5 million reimbursement due from each, plus northern clubs Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna.

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Valencia face the biggest tab, having apparently benefited from state loans on propitious terms, and must cough up €20.4 million, with second division outfits Hercules and Elche, both of which are also located in the Valencian Community, guilty of receiving similar, albeit less significant, good turns.

The sanctions follow a two-and-a-half-year investigation set in motion by Bilbao fan and then Commission vice-president in charge of competition policy, Joaquin Almunia, whose replacement, Margrethe Vestager said in a statement: “Professional football is a commercial activity with significant money involved, and public money must comply with fair competition rules. The subsidies we investigated in these cases did not.”

Following EU law, national governments are not permitted to tinker with competitions by manipulation or provision of state aid to commercial entities.

In a separate enquiry, the commission cleared five Dutch clubs, including PSV Eindhoven, as it found no evidence of them being given a leg-up in terms of government aid.

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