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economic aid Covid-19: Government announces multi-million package for sports sector

Empty football pitch

Football stadiums across the country sat empty for over two months as the government introduced social distancing measures to fight the pandemic.

(Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle)

The federal government has pledged CHF500 million ($515 million) to support sports clubs and associations in Switzerland hit by restrictions introduced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

More than half of that sum will be provided to professional football and hockey leagues in the form of loans to guarantee their viability until the end of the 2020-2021 season. 

The government earmarked CHF350 million to the leagues, with the first CHF175 million in loans designed to make up for revenue lost between June 1 and the end of 2020. If matches can take place only in a limited capacity for a year, the other half of that sum will be added to the 2021 government budget. 

Many sports competitions have been cancelled or postponed since the end of February because of the pandemic. The Swiss Super League postponed football matches, which can resume on June 8 following the relaxation of lockdown measures. However, the league had raised concerns about lingering financial and health and safety issues. 

Sport part of Swiss culture 

Viola Amherd, the minister responsible for sport, told the media on Wednesday that some 1.7% of the country’s GDP was linked directly to sports. But the sector was not just of economic importance – it encompassed leisure and health activities and was part of Swiss culture.   

“Sport plays a central role in our society,” she said. 

The loans will be subject to certain requirements, including guaranteeing training for young talent under pre-outbreak conditions.  

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The government is also allocating an additional CHF50 million for 2020 and CHF100 million for 2021 to sports associations and organisations in urgent need of financial assistance. This comes on top of a grant of CHF50 million already approved by the government to prevent lasting losses for these sporting structures, which rely heavily on volunteers.  

The funds come in addition to a CHF66 billion economic aid package unveiled earlier in the crisis and will need to be approved by parliament. 

The government is also looking into offering loans to the roughly 60 sporting federations headquartered in Switzerland, some of which are facing financial insolvency following the cancellation of large-scale events. The International Olympic Committee, which along with football governing bodies FIFA and UEFA would be excluded from state aid, would provide half of the funds.  

Aid for cultural sector 

On Wednesday the government also announced it would prolong by four months the period during which cultural institutions can have access to financial aid. In March it had earmarked CHF280 million ($289 million) to mitigate the economic consequences of lockdown measures on the cultural sector, originally for a two-month period.  

As part of a gradual easing of Covid-19 measures, training for all sports at amateur and professional levels resumed on May 11. Some museums and libraries also re-opened their doors. Sports activities can now take place in groups no larger than five people. The ban on large gatherings remains in place until the end of August 2020. 

swissinfo.ch/gw

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