Following its judgement on the similar case “Hamr Sport", the General Court of the EU published its judgement on the German state aid case “Deutscher Alpenverein-Magic Mountain u.a.” (T-162/13) on 9 June 2016. In this judgement, the court rejected the complaint by Magic Mountain, a private operator of climbing halls and confirmed the European Commission decision from 5 December 2012 that declared the state aid given as compatible with the single market. The Commission had decided a case of transfer of public property and granting of subsidies in two different regions of Germany together. A legal remedy with the European Court of Justice is still possible, but would only examine formal questions and no considerations regarding content.
In the course of two months, the court has therefore strengthened the position of non-profit sport organisations and denied private companies the claim to similar access to state subsidies. Even though the Block Exemption Regulation (valid since July 2014) has created a new legal situation, these old cases have more than symbolic value. They clarify that an affordable grassroots sport is of public interest and can even be considered part of the economic services of general interest.
The recourse to Art. 165 TFEU furthermore illustrates that the rather general claim that “the Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function” is more than mere words. It illustrates that grassroots sport, organised on club level and oriented towards the common good, needs specific support and specific protection.
Judgement General Court of the EU – DAV-Magic Mountain (in German or French)