EU upholds decision hindering multiple soccer club ownership

BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union antitrust regulators yesterday rejected a complaint against UEFA regulations that ban clubs under the same ownership from competing in European soccer’s top competitions. In 1998, European soccer’s governing body introduced a bar on teams controlled by the same company or individual from competing against each other in the Champions League or UEFA Cup. The rule was challenged by ENIC plc, a company with stakes in six European clubs – Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, Switzerland’s FC Basel, Vicenza in Italy, Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic, AEK of Greece and England’s Tottenham Hotspur. After a two-year inquiry, EU antitrust chief Mario Monti said the UEFA rule was justified by the need to guarantee the integrity of the soccer competition. «It is intended to ensure that sporting competitions are fair and honest, which is in the interest of the public and football fans in particular,» Monti said in a statement. FC Basel, which is 50-percent owned by ENIC, and AEK, in which the company has a 47-percent stake have both won through to the qualifying rounds of next season’s Champions League. In the UEFA Cup, Glasgow Rangers, where ENIC has a 25.1-percent stake, and Slavia Prague, which is 96.7-percent owned by the group, have both qualified.