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Three Valencian teams fined by EU, and government wants its money back

The EU released a report on anti-competitive measures (illegal state aid) in Spanish football, and while most of the attention has been focused on Madrid and Barcelona, three Valencian Community teams are going to face some penalties--and maybe more.

Elche's sale may not go through, or will at least have to be renegotiated
Elche's sale may not go through, or will at least have to be renegotiated
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

A conclusion, or nearly so, to a story we first reported a couple of years ago.  The European Community has concluded various football clubs in Spain were receiving various forms of state aid which gave them unfair advantages, and have fined the clubs accordingly.

"Using taxpayers’ money to finance professional football clubs can create unfair competition," the EU competition commissioner said. "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."

Real Madrid was fined for some dodgy property valuations used in a land deal with local authorities; they have been fined €18.4m but in best Florentino Pérez tradition have announced they will appeal.

Madrid, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna are also being fined up to €5m; they were able to take advantage of favorable tax treatment not available to other clubs (I forget the name of this particular structure they had, but this tax loophole has since been closed).

But the big losers are three Valencian Community clubs: Valencia, Elche and Hercules.  These three all benefited from guarantees of their debt, issued by the Valencian community government at the time.  The EU has fined Valencia €20.4 million, Hercules €6.1m and Elche €3.7m, corresponding to the amount of debt guaranteed and (I assume) the lower interest rate they were able to pay because of that guarantee.

Herculés was a Primera club at the time (briefly), but is now in the Segunda B, so I doubt they have €6.1m to pay this fine.  Elche was relegated from the Primera for financial reasons and is owned by the Valencian Finance Institute at the moment.  This penalty comes at a bad time for them because the government had nearly closed a sale of the club, which will probably have to be renegotiated.

As for Valencia CF, I doubt Peter Lim will look forward to writing a check for €20.4m with nothing received in return.  In fact, when he bought the club in 2014, his attorneys advised that €6m of the €94m purchase price should be put in escrow to pay an anticipated fine, but Lim is responsible for anything over that amount.  So he'll be very unhappy.

But, the matter may not stop there.  Recall that these loan guarantees were made by the previous Valencian Community government under Francisco Camps, from the Popular Party; the current government has made it quite clear that it accepts that what was done was illegal and it expects the clubs to pay the fines.  In addition, they will attempt to recover all moneys the givernment lent that have not been recovered.  Not sure how much that is, but not good news for any of the three clubs.