Swiss Super League rights tender ‘imminent’ as expansion plan rejected

(Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

The Swiss Football League has announced that its invitation to tender for domestic broadcast rights from the 2021-22 season onward is “imminent” as clubs voted to maintain the current 10-team model in the top-tier Super League.

A vote on the possible expansion of the Super League from 10 to 12 clubs had been due to take place in March but was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with the results of a written vote having been announced yesterday (Thursday).

Despite the majority of the 20 clubs in Switzerland’s top two leagues having previously backed the addition of two teams to the top flight, it has ultimately been decided that the Super League will retain its 10-team format.

The SFL said: “The invitation to tender for the television and sponsorship rights, as part of the central commercialisation of the SFL from the 2021-22 season onwards, is imminent. For this reason, despite the developments related to coronavirus, the vote on the format of the championships for the next contractual period became absolutely necessary.”

Pay-television broadcaster Teleclub holds live rights to all Super League matches from 2017-18 to 2020-21 in a deal worth just over CHF30m (€28.5m/$30.7m) per year that also includes rights to the second-tier Challenge League. Teleclub also sublicences non-exclusive rights to public-service broadcaster SRG SSR, which shows 36 Sunday matches per season from the top tier.

At the time of the last rights auction in 2016, the SFL also sealed a four-year international rights deal with the Lagardère Sports agency and a four-year sponsorship rights sales contract with the InfrontRingier agency. The sale of the domestic and international broadcast and sponsorship rights brought in a total of CHF40m per year.

The expansion of the Super League required a two-thirds majority but there was an even split in the votes, with 10 clubs in favour and 10 against.

Had the expansion been approved, the Super League would have adopted a similar model to the 12-team Scottish Premiership, which involves a split after 33 match days after each team has played each other three times. After the split, teams are divided into a top six and bottom six and then play an additional five matches in their respective selection to determine the league winners, European qualification and relegation.

The vote means that the Super League’s existing model will remain, with clubs playing each other four times a season to create a total of 36 league fixtures each.

An expansion to 12 teams was considered by the SFL in 2017 but failed to receive the necessary approval. The Dutch consultancy Hypercube was mandated then to review the Swiss league structure and, following a feasibility study, a 12-team league with a split after 22 matches was proposed. The reintroduction of promotion and relegation play-offs was also proposed at the time, but ultimately not implemented.