Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Belgian club to take legal action over Man City stablemate Lommel SK

Must read

A rival of Manchester City’s stablemate Lommel SK has accused the Belgian club of receiving “foreign subsidies” that distort competition and are contrary to European Union (EU) law.

In a statement published on their website on Thursday, Royal Excelsior Virton said they were taking legal action against the Belgian football federation’s decision to give Lommel SK the professional license they need to compete in the Challenger Pro League next season.

Virton, who finished bottom of the division this season and face relegation to the country’s amateur third tier, added that they were willing to take the case all the way to the European Court of Justice, the Luxembourg-based court that oversees the application of EU law.

The basis for Virton’s legal action is that the EU has recently adopted a regulation against “foreign subsidies distorting the internal market”. It was introduced in December to close a loophole in the common market’s rules against “state aid”, which is the use of public money to give a company or member state an unfair advantage over their rivals. EU states have always been prevented from doing this, but the new rule extends the prohibition to non-EU states.

Virton claim Lommel SK have been “financially doped” by a cash injection of £14million from their owner City Football Group (CFG), which now owns 13 clubs around the world, with Brazilian side EC Bahia officially joining the fold on Thursday.

CFG is majority-owned by Sheikh Mansour, the vice president and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, and a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

Virton say that without Abu Dhabi’s backing, which has no “economic rationality”, Lommel SK would not qualify for a license and would therefore be relegated to the third tier instead of them.

As well as starting legal action against the federation in the Belgian courts, Virton’s lawyer Sebastien Engelen has also lodged a complaint with the European Commission.

Lommel SK are managed by former Arsenal defender Steve Bould, with their 30-man squad including two loanees from Manchester City — Yeboah Amankwah and Kluiverth Aguilar — plus three from French CFG stablemate Troyes and one from Spanish side Girona, whom CFG acquired in 2017.

Lommel SK finished the regular season in seventh place before the 12-team league split into two groups, one that contests promotion to the top flight and the other that plays to avoid relegation.

They and Virton have each won away from home in their play-off matches against each other, but Virton have not been able to climb off the foot of the table, while Lommel SK have remained safe in seventh.

CFG has declined to comment on Virton’s legal action.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Latest article