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Swiss football and ice hockey schedules altered to maximise fan attendance

Young Boys take on Luzern in the 2020 Swiss Cup on August 6 (by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

The Swiss Football League (SFL) and Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) have announced that the start of their 2020-21 domestic league seasons will be delayed in an effort to maximise the opportunities of the government relaxing fan attendance restrictions from October.

Swiss federal lawmakers announced last week that from October 1 sports teams can add thousands of spectators to stadia and arena attendances if their plans are approved by local authorities. This will end a long-standing limit of 1,000 spectators at public events.

Football and ice hockey clubs have warned that they would struggle to survive without matchday income and the SFL and SIHF have both moved to capitalise on the government announcement. The football season was originally due to commence on September 11, but the second-tier Challenge League will now start on September 18 with the top-tier Super League following a day later.

The new SFL new calendar plan for 2020-21 now means that each club will have one home game before October 1, instead of some having two matches with a reduced attendance.

The ice hockey season was originally due to commence on September 18, but the National League and Swiss League will now start on October 1. The SIHF gave more information about the planning that will be needed to introduce more fans to games amid Covid-19.

It said: “The championship games require approval at the cantonal level, which is a major challenge for the National League and Swiss League. It is likely that the cantonal authorities will be able to decide on the maximum number of spectators per arena in accordance with the protection concept.

“The aim of NL&SL is to work with politicians and the cantonal health directors to find a uniform solution for all clubs with regard to the utilisation of the arenas and to obtain permanent approval for the entire season.”

A meeting of the clubs approved an infrastructure protection concept. This includes a provision for face mask wearing, seating regulations, fan registration and contact tracing, as well as the conversion of areas usually reserved for away fans, with arenas reserved for home attendance only. It is also recommended that clubs take a body temperature measurement before spectators enter an arena.

In May, the government announced financial measures to aid domestic football and ice hockey. The scheme included a total of CHF350m (€325.6m/$385.5m) in federal loans for the football and ice hockey leagues, along with CHF150m for other elite sport and clubs.

The first round of loans for football and ice hockey was made available to clubs through the league organisers in order to cover team losses from June 1 onwards for six months. A total of CHF100m was to be initially made available to Swiss football teams and another CHF100m available from the government in 2021 “in the case that competitions are only possible in a reduced fashion for a year”.

The federal council outlined repayable financial aid of CHF75m for Swiss ice hockey clubs and a further CHF75m in 2021. The CHF500m repayable aid was in addition to the CHF100m sports funding package ratified by the Swiss government towards the end of March.

The SFL last week announced that it will launch an invitation to tender for domestic and international media rights, from the 2021-22 season, on September 14.