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League calls time on cash-strapped clubs

Lausanne have been hit by debt and poor attendance figures

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland's national football league has thrown three clubs out of the country's top division because of financial and administrative failings.

Lausanne, Sion and Lugano were all refused licences to play in the top division after failing to win support from the league's appeal commission. All three clubs will now have to tackle their financial problems while playing in the less lucrative national B league.

"It's not a decision that I am proud of," national league president Jean-Françoise Kurz told swissinfo on Tuesday, "but it was necessary. We have been criticised in the past for not being strict enough in enforcing the regulations and when I took over the running of the league I was asked to be more strict.

"I want a league entirely made up of clubs that are honest," Kurz added. "I believe today's measures will be the first step towards better football in Switzerland."

Relegated but still in Europe?

Lugano appear to have the greatest difficulties of all the relegated clubs. Following the death of their former president Helios Jermini, the Ticinese team are reported to have discovered debts of around SFr18 million ($11.6 million).

Ironically, the club have shown themselves to be one of the strongest Swiss outfits on the pitch in recent seasons. Having finished last season's top division campaign in third position, the team are still due to play in next season's UEFA Cup competition.

No longer national?

As well as bringing further hardships to the clubs directly involved, Tuesday's decision threatens to diminish the national appeal of the top division. There are now no representatives from the Italian-speaking region of Ticino while the two remaining teams from French-speaking western Switzerland (Servette Geneva and Neuchâtel Xamax) only avoided relegation themselves after securing last-minute financial guarantees for the coming season.

"I can't be responsible for the geographical spread of the league's clubs," Kurz insisted on Tuesday. "We must take clubs who can compete on both the sporting and financial side of things. If no teams from the French and Italian-speaking regions can meet those obligations that is their mistake, not mine."

Reduction possible

It is still not clear who will replace the relegated sides. Aarau, Delémont and Lucerne are next in line due to their final positions in last season's B league.

However league officials said on Tuesday that they were still considering an immediate reduction in the size of the top division to just ten clubs.

The league had already announced its plan to reduce the top division, but had not intended to make the change until the end of next season.

Tuesday's decision marks the first time in Switzerland's footballing history that any clubs have been relegated from the top division because of matters off the pitch.

Six clubs (Bellinzona, Grenchen, SC Zug, Malley, Montreux and FC Wettingen) had previously been relegated from the B league, all of them in the early 1990s. FC Wettingen were even forced to declare themselves bankrupt and begin life again in Switzerland's fifth league as the renamed Wettingen 93.

by Mark Ledsom


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