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IIHF cancels Switzerland’s Ice Hockey World Championship

Finland celebrate winning the gold medal game over Canada during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship (by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has cancelled its 2020 World Championship due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, admitting that it may be difficult for Switzerland to retain hosting rights to the men’s national team showpiece.

The announcement by the IIHF Council comes after the governing body this month agreed to cancel the 2020 Women’s World Championship, which was scheduled to be held in Halifax and Truro, Canada, from March 31 to April 10.

At the time, the IIHF said that decision would not influence the planning for this year’s men’s World Championship, which was due to be held in Lausanne and Zurich, from May 8-24. However, the event has now been shelved with IIHF president René Fasel stating: “This is a harsh reality to face for the international ice hockey family, but one that we must accept.

“The coronavirus is a global problem and requires major efforts by government bodies to combat its spread. The IIHF must do all it can to support this fight. We have to set sport aside for now and support both the government bodies and the ice hockey family.”

The IIHF said the decision to cancel the World Championship will have a “far-reaching impact” on the Federation and its partners, as well as the participating teams and the national associations that were due to arrive for the IIHF Annual Congress, which was scheduled to take place in Zurich from May 21-23, but has been postponed until further notice.

The IIHF’s decision essentially wipes out its entire spring calendar of World Championship events. With the Federation conceding that there were “obviously no possibilities” to relocate the 2020 World Championship to another country, the certainty of the calendar for future editions of the annual event means it is likely to be difficult to reposition Switzerland’s hosting rights.

Broadcast and sponsorship rights to the World Championship are marketed by Infront, with the agency in September signing a 10-year extension to its agreement with the IIHF. Swiss household appliance manufacturer V-Zug last month signed up as the latest official sponsor of the 2020 World Championship.

Infront’s current agreement with the IIHF runs from 2018 to 2023. The Wanda Sports-owned agency has sold commercial rights for the World Championship since 1981, including worldwide media rights. The host broadcast of matches is also managed by Infront.

The IIHF added in a statement: “Both the IIHF and the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Organising Committee have implemented a robust insurance and risk management program for the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in accordance with the IIHF Statutes and insurance guidelines. Part of these risk management measures included protecting the substantial revenues associated with the event. These revenue protection measures have responded accordingly.”

In May, the IIHF awarded hosting rights for its World Championships between 2023 and 2025. Russia will host in 2023, Czech Republic will stage the 2024 event and the 2025 edition will be co-hosted by Sweden and Denmark.

Last year’s Ice Hockey World Championships took place in Slovakia. Belarus and Latvia are due to co-host in 2021 before the event heads to Finland in 2022.

The IIHF added: “The potential scenario of a postponement of the World Championship in Switzerland to another year is a matter that must be discussed within the Congress given the fact that the host countries for the forthcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are fixed until Year 2025. Therefore, such a decision will not be forthcoming until Congress is next in session.”

Clarifying its position further, the IIHF said: “At this time, it cannot be determined if it will be possible for the World Championship to be postponed to a later date in 2020, or that Zurich and Lausanne could host the tournament in May 2021.

“Minsk, Belarus, and Riga, Latvia have already confirmed as co-hosts for the 2021 IIHF World Championship, as well as Helsinki/Tampere, Finland for 2022, and a postponement decision would have a major impact on their preparations.”