14 December – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The European Commission has decided to ask France formally to modify its legislation preventing football and other sports clubs from being listed on stock markets. It views this as an unjustified barrier to the free movement of capital, in breach of the EC Treaty (Article 56). The Commission’s request is in the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the Treaty. If France does not respond satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court. Contacts with the French authorities will continue to see if a solution can be found, compatible with Community law.
The Commission has decided to send France a reasoned opinion in respect of Act No 84-610 of 16 July 1984 on the organisation and promotion of physical and sports activities. Under Article 13 of that Act, limited companies operating in the field of sport are not allowed to raise capital from the public. One effect of this ban is to prevent professional sports clubs, in particular football clubs, from being listed on the stock market.
The Commission believes that these provisions are incompatible with the rules of the EU Treaty on the free movement of capital. Admission to stock exchange listing and the issue and placement of shares or bonds on capital markets are movements of capital for the purposes of Community law. The European Court of Justice has consistently held that restrictions on the free movement of capital must:
* be applied in a non-discriminatory manner,
* be needed for overriding reasons of general interest,
* be such as to guarantee the achievement of the objective pursued, and
* not go beyond what is necessary to achieve that objective.
The Commission acknowledges that protection of savers and the promotion of a certain equality in sports competitions are relevant objectives of general interest, but it believes that a total ban on raising capital from the public is disproportionate to the objectives pursued and that other measures are possible that are not as restrictive for the free movement of capital.
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