Monday 11 December 2017

Bale's Madrid move facing probe

Gareth Bale (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale (Getty Images)

Sam Wallace

Three MEPs have written to the European Commission asking it to investigate whether Gareth Bale's £78m transfer to Real Madrid in 2013 was backed by Spanish banks bailed out by taxpayers in the European Union.

The question, tabled by British Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton, Belgian MEP Sander Loones and Ramon Termosa, a Spanish MEP, was precipitated by questions asked by the 'Daily Telegraph' about the promissory notes that were part of the details of the Bale deal that were disclosed on the Football Leaks website last month.

Those promissory notes, which assumed the risk for the three outstanding instalments on the deal that Madrid agreed with Tottenham for Bale, have been reported in Spain to have been bought by, among others, Bankia, the Spanish bank bailed out to the tune of euros €18billion by the EU. Other named "friendly banks" who may well have bought the promissory notes include BBVA, Santander and Popular.

The political climate in Spain at the time, one year after the EU's €41billion bail-out of the country, made borrowing the money for the deal difficult for Madrid president Florentino Perez. The promissory note system was a more acceptable way of financing the world-record transfer without it being a direct loan from a financial system that would have been bankrupt but for the EU's intervention.

The three MEPs say that if the bailed-out Spanish banks were using Spanish and European taxpayers' money indirectly to guarantee the Bale deal it would constitute illegal state aid. In their statement, the three MEPs pointed out that Spanish banks used the contracts of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo as collateral when applying for loans to the European Central Bank in 2010. At the time, Bankia, formed from the merger of seven banks, owned Real's debt. The episode was "something which hampers leading English clubs in the flagship Uefa Champions League," the MEPs said, "and in competing commercially at the global level."

Dalton said: "If taxpayers' money was used to underwrite the Gareth Bale transfer deal then this is something the EU should investigate. Real Madrid are the world's richest football club and if it has used a state-owned bank, owned by taxpayers, to guarantee multi-million pound transfer fees, then it is something the EU should address to ensure there are no unfair competitive advantages given to teams supported by taxpayer-funded financial institutions." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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