Nine clubs from Switzerland's top two football leagues have been denied licences for next season because they lack sufficient funds.
Tuesday's announcement by the national league's licence commission emphasised the particularly harsh situation facing clubs from the French- and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland with Lausanne, Neuchâtel Xamax, Servette, Sion, Lugano and Locarno all on the list of threatened teams.
Fighting an ongoing battle against bankruptcy, FC Lucerne also make an unsurprising appearance on the list, along with Winterthur and Liechtenstein team Vaduz, who play in Switzerland's national B league.
Surplus of teams
"The regional difference comes down to a simple business problem," national league director Edmond Isoz told swissinfo on Tuesday. "The French-speaking part of Switzerland makes up only 20 per cent of the population yet it contains practically 50 per cent of the country's top teams."
While football teams around the globe have been suffering recently from a boom and bust phenomenon frequently attributed to spiralling wage bills, Isoz insists that Switzerland's problems are of an entirely different nature.
"Wage bills aren't such a problem here," Isoz says. "In fact our difficulties go all the way back to the Bosman case in 1995 (which allowed the free movement of players whose contracts had expired). As a small country we can no longer attract the top players who in turn attract big business and, since Bosman, we haven't been able to hold on to talented homegrown players."
Right to appeal
All nine clubs can appeal against the decision taken by the league's licence commission on Tuesday, but to succeed they must show themselves to be financially solvent.
One requirement is that the clubs must have met all their salary obligations up until April 30, a requirement that is expected to challenge many of the teams involved.
Top division status is clearly no shield against financial difficulties in Switzerland. No less than six of the nine troubled teams play in the national A league.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is that of Servette Geneva, who are currently on course for a place in next season's UEFA Cup competition having reached the tournament's fourth round this season. With their funds already stretched by investment in a brand new stadium, the club have been hard hit by the withdrawal of major investors Canal Plus.
"Servette are certainly not the ones who worry me the most, though," reckoned national league director Edmond Isoz on Tuesday. "The opening of their new stadium in March 2003 is bound to attract new investors."
Lugano are another team whose sporting results are looking much healthier than their financial figures. Second in the top division and already assured of a European place next season, the Ticinese team have been drawn into a monetary mire following the untimely death of club president Helios Jermini in March.
Winterthur and Lucerne appear to have the toughest financial struggle ahead of them, with both clubs facing a genuine battle against bankruptcy. The remaining teams could find themselves relegated to the amateur leagues if they fail to make convincing appeals.
If any teams are relegated, their places are expected to be taken by the highest ranked sides who have received licences. As things stand that could mean a top division place by default for current B leaguers Thun and Delemont.
by Mark Ledsom with agencies
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