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Game over for Servette

Servette's players have left the changing room at Geneva stadium for the last time Keystone

Geneva’s Servette football club has finally decided not to go through with an appeal against a local court ruling declaring it bankrupt.

This content was published on February 16, 2005 - 16:34

The club’s last hope of keeping its head above water was dashed after a group of Syrian investors pulled out of a rescue deal.

Servette, which was declared bankrupt on February 4, had never left the top flight in 115 years of competition.

The club had initially appealed against the decision, hoping to field a team against old rivals Grasshoppers of Zurich on Sunday, when the championship resumes after the winter break.

It had pinned its hopes on an unnamed group of Syrian investors who were allegedly prepared to pump millions of francs into the embattled club. Servette is believed to be up to SFr11 million in the red.

The Syrians were supposed to hand over documents to the court showing that they had bought out the shares of club president, Marc Roger, as well as present a bank guarantee worth SFr15 million.

Mysterious investors

The mysterious investors said in a news release published on the club’s website that too many hurdles had got in the way of their bid.

They added that talks with Roger, a former player’s agent, had been difficult. The president had allegedly told them that he held a bigger stake than he actually had, when in fact 30 per cent was still in the hands of Michel Coencas, his predecessor.

The Syrians also claimed that not all the club’s players had signed an agreement preventing them from making further claims once their salaries had been paid in full.

But the biggest issue for the investors seems to have been Servette’s accounting practices. An independent audit revealed serious doubts about last year’s accounts.

The Syrians wrote that they did not want to underwrite what they felt would be a major financial risk in the short and medium term.

Lengthy agony

The final chapter in Servette’s history has been a long drawn-out affair. Its finances had taken a turn for the worse when the television group Canal Plus pulled out in 2002.

Coencas took over, but failed to come up with the money needed to keep the club ticking over properly. When Roger arrived in April last year, he was considered Servette’s last chance to avoid going under.

However, observers tend to agree that all his promises of big money and other statements turned out to be hot air.

Roger completely restructured the first team and spent heavily on players. But the club struggled to meet expectations and at the winter break was languishing in the lower ranks of the top division.

The Servette name will not vanish altogether from the football ranks. A team will play in the third division next season.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In 115 years of competition, Servette has been national champion 17 times, and was winner of the Swiss Cup seven times.
The club took part in the European Champions’ League seven times.
Servette also competed 14 times in the Uefa Cup and six in the defunct Cup Winners’ Cup.
The club had never been relegated.

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In brief

On February 4, a Geneva court had declared Servette bankrupt.

The club’s total debt is believed to be around SFr11 million.

It financial woes began when French media group Canal Plus pulled out in 2002.

In February 2004, Marc Roger was the only investor prepared to take over the club.

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