EU antitrust probe blocks work on Real Madrid stadium

  
Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The club is being investigated over illegal state aid. [Rromer/Flickr]

Real Madrid's plans to remodel their Bernabéu football stadium were thrown into doubt on Friday (1 August) after a court in the Spanish capital suspended an agreement between the club and the city government that is crucial to the project.

The court ruled that the deal between Real and the Madrid council, which would allow land adjacent to the stadium to be incorporated into the stadium overhaul, should be suspended because the European Commission is examining it for possible illegal state aid.

The Commission said in December when it announced its investigation that the property deal appeared "very advantageous".

"The court is adopting the [suspension] measure due to the launching of a process by the European Commission relating to possible state aid given to Real Madrid," the Madrid court said in a statement.

Real did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the court's ruling.

Real, the world's richest club by income, chose a design led by German architects GMP for the remodelling of the Bernabeu at an estimated cost of €400 million.

The club hopes the work, which would see a striking new roof and exterior added to the current structure and include a hotel and a shopping centre, can be completed by 2017.

By remodelling the stadium, which was opened in the 1950s and holds just over 80,000 spectators, Real are looking to increase matchday revenue, one of their key income streams.

The European Commission began disciplinary action against seven Spanish clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona over possible illegal state aid.​ Barca, Real Madrid, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao are accused of contravening European Union rules because they are still owned by their members, or socios, and had benefited from favourable tax treatment.

The Commission is also probing Real over their training facilities at Valdebebas near Madrid's main airport and Bilbao over aid they received for the construction of their new stadium, which opened this season.

Brussels will investigate Barça, Real Madrid over illegal state aid

Joaquín Almunia, the Spanish commissioner in charge of policing the EU's antitrust rules, has denied accusations of a conflict of interest in the handling of an investigation into unfair tax breaks worth billions of euros given to Spanish football clubs.

Almunia counter-attacks in high-profile Spanish football tax case on EurActiv

Almunia counter-attacks in high-profile Spanish football tax case

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