Changes afoot

Swiss football clubs are expected to back the proposed league changes Keystone Archive

Switzerland's football clubs are expected to approve a major overhaul to the country's league system on Friday.

This content was published on March 19, 2002 - 11:49

Since being introduced in 1986, the current league structure has been repeatedly criticised for being too complicated and too long.

The Swiss league has now responded to those criticisms, proposing a simpler format along with a reduction of teams in the country's top division.

"It's not just a change of formula," insists national league director Edmond Isoz. "It also heralds the arrival of a new philosophy for professional football in Switzerland."

Slimmed-down top division

Proponents of the new system argue that a slimmed-down top division will help Swiss clubs to do better in European competition. Strict rules are also planned to restrict top division status to clubs with sufficient finances and facilities.

In the past such proposals have been rejected by the league's smaller clubs. But by expanding the size of the second division and removing the threat of relegation in next year's planned transitional season, the league appears to have won round most of the second division sides.

To gain approval, the new plan must be supported by two thirds of the league's 24 clubs at Friday's meeing. So far, only the presidents of Yverdon, Neuchatel and Bellinzona have expressed dissatisfaction.

If the new proposals are accepted, Switzerland's top division will consist of 10 clubs (currently 12) from the start of the 2003/2004 season, with the second division being expanded from 12 clubs to 16.

Standard league system

The clubs would play each of their opponents twice (home and away) in keeping with the standard league system familiar to football fans all around the world.

The current Swiss football league is anything other than normal. The most notable idiosyncrasies occur halfway through the season when four top division clubs drop down into a relegation/promotion subdivision where they battle against four second division clubs in a bid to retain their top division status.

Just as bizarrely, the remaining eight top division sides then go into the decisive championship round (free from relegation fears) with just half of the points acquired during the autumn.

by Mark Ledsom with agencies

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