Politicians bet on safer Euro 2008
Parliament has agreed to a SFr82.5 million ($66.9 million) funding package for the 2008 European football championship to be hosted by Switzerland and Austria.
The amount is higher than the government’s original proposal and comes amid controversy over the spiralling costs of the Euro 2008 tournament.
On Thursday, the Senate took its cue from the House of Representatives. It approved an additional SFr10.5 million to help the host cities, Zurich, Basel, Geneva and the capital, Bern, boost security.
During earlier debates, senators had come out against extra state funding, saying the cantonal and local authorities should increase their contributions.
Sports Minister Samuel Schmid said he would seek a clear-cut deal with the cities and the cantonal police authorities in a bid to avoid overstepping the budget.
Thursday’s agreement comes after weeks of debate in parliament. Politicians were particularly unhappy after the original cost estimate of SFr3.5 million suffered a more than 20-fold increase.
The country’s 26 cantons and the local authorities are to contribute about SFr100 million towards the costs. But Euro 2008 is expected to generate sales of up to SFr315 million for the Swiss economy.
The debate over security at sports events was given new momentum in May following one of the worst incidents of post-match violence in Swiss football.
Hundreds of people went on the rampage in Basel in the wake of a decisive match between the local team and Swiss champions, FC Zurich.
Schmid has called for increased action against hooligans, including a ban on alcohol around stadiums.
Parliament earlier this year approved a series of measures – limited until the end of 2009 – to crack down on violent fans, including a national hooligan database, travel restrictions for known troublemakers and increased police powers.
However, a group of football supporters are challenging the planned regulations and calling for a nationwide vote.
Data protection experts have warned that the planned database is unconstitutional.
Of the SFr82-million federal contribution, just under SFr36 million is earmarked for security.
Up to 10,000 soldiers will be on standby during Euro 2008, but they will only intervene to support the cantonal police forces.
Around SFr16 million is to be set aside for infrastructure, sports and cultural events.
Promotional campaigns will be funded to the tune of SFr20 million, while SFr10 million is set aside as reserve.
Total costs: SFr182 million
To be paid by federal authorities: SFr82.5 million
Initial cost estimate: SFr3.5 million
Expected sales: SFr280-315 million
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