UEFA Cup: EU powerless to act in dispute on crossborder venue

Forced to find another venue for its UEFA Cup matches, German club Alemannia Aachen chose neighbouring Holland. Reacting to a complaint about UEFA’s ‘no’, the Commission said the case fell outside its competence.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has made it crystal
clear that the EU cannot intervene with regard to German club TSV
Alemannia Aachen's wish to play its UEFA Cup matches next season in
the stadium of Kerkrade in the Netherlands.

MEP Armin Laschet (PPE, DE) had put written questions to Monti
pointing out that the Aachen stadium was below the 80% seating
capacity prescribed by the Union of European Football Associations
for UEFA Cup matches. The German MEP noted that the nearest stadium
meeting UEFA criteria was ten kilometres away in Kerkrade and that
the closest one in Germany was 80 kilometres away. His questions
were:

  • Is this requirement compatible with the rules governing the
    single internal market and freedom of movement in the European
    Union?
  • Is it lawful for a sporting organisation such as UEFA to
    re-erect the national barriers which have long since been abolished
    by European law?

Sources at the club emphasised to EURACTIV the fact that
Kerkrade stadium was only ten kilometres away made it much more
accessible for the team's fans. But this time UEFA's rules have not
been put to the test any further as the club has now ruled out the
Dutch option on the basis that Kerkrade are in the Intertoto Cup
and may therefore qualify for the UEFA Cup themselves.

According to article 3(6) of the UEFA Cup 2003/2004 regulations,
a club may play its matches in the territory of another UEFA member
association
subject to the agreement of the UEFA authorities.

Asked by EURACTIV, UEFA sources said that the rule on this issue
was not set out in black and white but that the organisation was of
the opinion that a club should play within its own territory and
only play abroad for reasons of security.

Drawing on the example of the 'Mouscron' case in his response to
Laschet's letter, the commissioner said he was satisfied that, by
adopting its 'at home and away from home' rule, "UEFA had exercised
its legitimate right of self­regulation as a sports organisation in
a manner which could not be challenged by the Treaty's competition
rules".

The Mouscron case stems from a complaint lodged against UEFA
with the Commission on 31 December 1997 by the Communauté Urbaine
de Lille. The complaint challenged UEFA's decision not to allow the
UEFA Cup game between Excelsior Mouscron (the football club of a
Belgian town located near the French border) and FC Metz to be held
at the ground of Lille-Métropole. As a result, the Communauté
Urbaine de Lille was unable to hire out the stadium to Excelsior
Mouscron. UEFA based its decision on the UEFA Cup rules, which
stipulate among other things that every club must play its home
match at its own ground, except in a number of very exceptional
circumstances.

 

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