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Wengen FIS World Cup race under threat in TV and sponsorship rights revenue spat

Action from FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Downhill on January 18, 2020 in Wengen (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

The future of the flagship FIS Ski World Cup race in Wengen is under threat because of a long-running row between organisers and Swiss-Ski, the national governing body, over the distribution of media and sponsorship rights revenues.

The spat between the organising committee and Swiss-Ski reignited this week as the pair traded statements following the federation’s request to remove the race from the provisional 2021-22 FIS World Cup calendar.

Swiss-Ski said that it “cannot meet the financial demands” of the organisers of the iconic Lauberhorn race.

All organisers of World Cup stages in Switzerland receive a share of revenues from a central commercial pot that is decided upon according to the importance and prestige of the event. Organisers in Wengen currently receive just over CHF2m (€1.89m/$2.06m).

The disaccord between organisers and Swiss-Ski first surfaced in 2016 and continues to be examined by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Wengen race is already assured its place on the 2020-21 FIS calendar but Swiss-Ski moved on Wednesday to remove it from the calendar in 2021-22 during a meeting of the alpine ski committee of the International Ski Federation (FIS).

The organisers, who say they remain “ready to talk” with Swiss-Ski, have called for a “fairer distribution” of revenues in order to finance the event in the future.

The organisers also flagged up that Swiss-Ski president Urs Lehmann had recently “publicly emphasised the great importance of the Lauberhorn races” in various recent interviews.

Swiss-Ski holds an international broadcast rights deal with the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of public-service broadcasters, from 2016-17 to 2021-22. Domestic broadcast rights are held by public broadcaster SRG SSR, also in a six-year deal to 2022. Swiss Ski Weltcup Marketing AG, a subsidiary of the national federation, handles the sale of sponsorship rights.

Crans-Montana in Valais, which is bidding for the 2025 Alpine World Ski Championships, is considered the most likely replacement on the 2021-22 calendar in the event that Wengen is excluded.

Gian-Franco Kasper, the FIS president, said in January that the international federation “certainly does not want to lose Wengen as a World Cup venue”, and described the Lauberhorn as “one of our largest and best-known races”.