Spanish football clubs owe the ministry of Finance €609.4 million. The teams have reduced their debt by -8.2 percent since early 2012, but the amount still remains above the entire state spending in research, development and innovation last year. The European Commission has now opened an inquiry because of suspicions that clubs could have breached fair competition rules and the Spanish Tax Agency might be giving them an unjustified preferential treatment.
But making them pay will prove difficult. Speaking to Hispanidad.com, tax lawyer Eduardo Cardona said most clubs have no assets to be seized and confiscation sentences would end up void of any real consequences. “In most cases, clubs are not even the proprietors of the stadiums where the teams play,” Cardona explained, “so when creditors sit down to draw a plan to defer payments or to allow payment in instalments, everyone realises that it makes little difference.”
In fact, creditors often prefer to keep the club active, as there would be no hope of recovering their investment if they closed. “No one dares to close down a club because there would be social repercussions,” Cardona added, “and politicians try to avoid the public anger that such move could spark.”
Experts describe the current situation as similar to that in 1982, when Spain hosted the World Cup and football clubs had their debt written off.