Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has claimed a European Commission investigation into alleged illegal state aid for some La Liga clubs is motivated by jealousy.
Earlier this week, the commission confirmed it was examining whether seven Spanish clubs had received illegal, market-distorting support from national and regional authorities through preferential tax rates, below-market value land deals and guaranteed bank loans.
It is investigating whether Madrid, along with Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna, have an unfair advantage because they pay less tax due to their status as members’ clubs.
It is also looking at what “appears to have been a very advantageous property swap with the City of Madrid”, which benefited the club by more than 22 million euros.
But Perez said the investigation showed Spanish football was being victimised. He emphasised that the land deal had already been examined, and added: “There is a campaign against Spanish football because of the success we have had.
“About our operation with the Ciudad Deportiva [training ground, the subject of the land deal] there was already a legal complaint. They investigated us, they wanted to damage us, and nothing happened.”
He said being a members’ club was not an advantage, and that it “had cost Madrid 13 million euros, because you cannot deduct for money which is reinvested.”
European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told AS the investigation had been prompted by a complaint, but added that he could not reveal who had brought the matters to the commission’s attention.
“When we receive information, or some complaint, we look to examine the information, to understand the situation, and if we reach a moment when we have reasonable doubts about state aid which is not compatible with European legislation, then we open a formal investigation,” he explained
He said the commission had “doubts” about the legality of the land dealings between Real Madrid and the city council, which saw land the club valued at 595,000 euros when Madrid bought it from the authority in 1998 and 22.7 million euros when it was sold back some years later.
La Liga president Javier Tebas also said Spanish football’s success had led to suspicion.
“Spanish football is being called into question because our teams win a lot of trophies and that has made people suspicious that our teams are receiving help, which they are not,” he insisted.
“The European Union is obliged to monitor that the rules are being enforced as much as possible. That an investigation is under way does not mean anything.”
Many in Spain fear the investigation into tax rates paid by Spain’s member-owned clubs could lead to them being forcibly converted into private companies, with socios, or members, then losing control.
Almunia said the commission did not care how clubs were organised once they paid the same tax rate as other sides they competed against.
Barcelona chief Sandro Rosell said the club had always complied with legal obligations. “FC Barcelona has not received funds of any type from any official bodies,” he added.