More than 2,370,000 spectators attended matches in the recent Swiss football season 2022/2023, establishing a new record. However, in 2022, the SFL General Assembly, comprising all top division clubs, decided to implement a significant change in our format. Since August, we have adopted the Scottish football model, engaging in 33 games during the initial round and subsequently dividing the standings into two groups. The top 6 teams then fight for the championship and international qualification spots for the UEFA European cups, participating in an additional 5 games until the conclusion of the season. Furthermore, there will be an expansion from 10 to 12 teams competing in the top division.
ADAPTATION FOR THE BETTER
But why change the whole modus while we face growing interest for the Super league? What is the reason behind this new change?
«According to the stakeholder survey, increasing the sporting attractiveness of the competitions is one of the three most urgent tasks for the SFL. Creating excitement in the title race, the battle for international slots, as well as in promotion and relegation scenarios, is intended to characterize the SFL competitions. » (source: SFL Strategy report.)
Furthermore, various other factors have contributed to the SFL’s decision to implement this change, including economic stability and success, sustainability, and the security of spectators and club infrastructures. The SFL report emphasizes that the clubs are at the center of all considerations for change because ultimately, they are responsible for ensuring their competitiveness not only nationwide but also on the international stage of UEFA.
FIGHT AGAINST BOREDOM
However, there is also a desire for increased excitement, as many fans and officials have acknowledged. Examining the last 20 years of the Super League since its introduction in the 2003/04 season reveals a pattern where the same teams consistently emerged victorious. FC Basel 1893 won 11 times, Young Boys Bern won 5 times, and FC Zürich won 4 times. The period of FC Basel’s dominance from 2010 to 2017, where they secured 8 consecutive titles, sparked discussions about the monotony and predictability of the league outcomes.
After Basel’s dominance waned due to internal problems and a change in presidency, it was Bern that asserted itself. Despite being traditionally seen as the perpetual runner-up, Bern, which had not won the national league from 1986 to 2018 and frequently finished behind Basel, clinched 4 consecutive titles. Surprisingly, Zürich, not Bern, secured the 5th title in a row in the 2021/22 season, displaying a stunning championship performance to keep rivals Basel and Bern at bay. Nevertheless, Bern emerged as the winner again last year, even doubling its success with a victory in the Swiss Cup. Where are the other teams?
Looking at the ongoing season, it appears to be more interesting than it has been in a long time. Four teams are closely competing for the top spot, while only 13 points separate the teams from 5th place to the last. Apart from Bern, the favorite for the championship, teams like FC St. Gallen, FC Zürich and FC Servette (Geneva) are vying for the title.
Surprisingly, this season FC Basel, the largest club in Switzerland, is struggling towards the bottom. After an incredible international campaign in last year’s Conference League, where they reached the semi-finals but lost narrowly to Fiorentina, they sold nearly their entire team for a remarkable 52 million. This represents a new strategy for the club’s economic survival: buying young talents, providing a career boost in Europe, and ultimately selling them to bigger leagues in England, Germany, or elsewhere.
IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT FOOTBALL; ITS MORE OVER ABOUT FINANCE
In total, the Swiss league has generated 98 million in turnovers through transfers in the 2023/24 season, whereas most teams only make around 1-5 million, with Bern as the second highest at 23 million. Nonetheless, this money is crucial for each club, given the comparatively smaller size of the league compared to other countries. The clubs are grateful for every franc. According to the Swiss Super League page, they can pay around 25.5 million in TV and marketing money to the 12 clubs this year, with the winner receiving 748,000 francs and the last one receiving 0 francs. Therefore, there is a need to increase the tension and competitiveness of the league, especially when compared to Germany’s TV budget of 1.165 billion euros and England’s staggering 2 billion euros, to attract more spectators both in stadiums and on TV.
Additionally, it is crucial that Swiss teams can play internationally every year, a lot of money. They earn money from competitions, mostly the Champions League, where Bern is expected to receive around 20-30 million this year, and from the opportunity to showcase players on the international stage, hoping to increase their value and sell them off.
Unfortunately, football nowadays wouldn’t work without private money. Many clubs, such as PSG, Chelsea, or Manchester United, are privately owned by very wealthy families who invest millions into the clubs. On a smaller scale, this is also true in Switzerland, with FC Zürich and the Canepas, Sion and Constantin, or the Young Boys and the Rihs brothers being just a few examples.
However, this can also be positive, as seen in Lugano, where an American millionaire is investing in a new stadium, which will not only upgrade the infrastructure but also project a better and more modern image of the football league.
LOOK INTO THE FUTURE
What Lugano will be waiting for is already a reality in Lausanne, where they built a new stadium for FC Lausanne Sport, inaugurated in 2019. Furthermore, Basel presented their project to renovate their stadium, the largest in Switzerland with a capacity of 36,000 places, in a sustainable and modern way with solar cells and new features to make the stadium more of an open space for the population outside of football games.
It is as if these projects and the modifications to the league would usher in a new era of football in Switzerland. As we already see after 16 rounds, the race for the title is as open as it hasn’t been for the last ten years. I would be delighted if a team like FC Servette or FC St. Gallen were to win the title at the end of the season and shake up the list of winners a little, thereby only increasing the attractiveness of the league. It would be nice if the Swiss Football League would become as competitive and interesting as the hockey national league. Going to games should become a nerve-wracking and spectacular experience if it hasn’t been before.
There are a lot of expectations lying ahead, and we’ll see at the end of this season and the following ones if the change was a good thing or not. But for now, let’s be ready for the 17th round this weekend with another six interesting games full of tensions regarding the current table.
SOURCES (cliquez sur les titres pour en savoir plus)