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Swatch calls time on ski deal

The end of the piste for Swatch Keystone Archive

Switzerland’s Swatch Group has criticised the International Ski Federation (FIS) for failing to grant it exclusive rights to time World Cup races.

The world’s largest watchmaker, which has pulled its sponsorship, said the organisation was “badly run” and had a “feeble” president.

Swatch told the FIS on Monday that it would no longer provide timing and data services at World Cup races.

The announcement came after the Austrian ski federation refused to recognise a global deal agreed by Swatch and the FIS.

The Austrians decided instead to do their own deal with German telecoms giant Siemens for races held in Austria.

“It does not make sense for Swatch, if at every event someone else is doing the timing,” said Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swatch.

“It is not possible to negotiate individually with each country.”

While incensed by the Austrians’ decision, Hayek singled out Gian-Franco Kasper, president of the FIS, for playing “a feeble role” in the affair.

Hayek said he had warned the FIS that Swatch would pull out unless it received an exclusive contract.

Not realistic

Kasper rejected the criticism and accused Hayek of not being realistic.

“It was a great shock to us when Swatch said they wanted all the races or none of them,” he said.

“Clearly we need to find a new sponsor quickly as the overall costs for timekeeping and data services can total up to four million euros [$5.35 million] a season.”

Kasper said he regretted Hayek’s decision which had brought an end to a 60-year relationship between the sport and the Swiss watchmaking industry.

Swatch said it would provide its services for the races where it had pre-existing contracts – Kitzbühel and Wengen – as well as the world championships in Bormio, Italy, in February.

“Afterwards we will withdraw from the FIS which is badly run,” added Hayek.

Swatch remains the official timekeeper for other international competitions such as the Olympic Games.

swissinfo with agencies

Gian-Franco Kasper has been president of the International Ski Federation since 1998.
The FIS is based in Oberhofen, canton Bern, and counts 102 member states.
It has an annual budget of SFr40 million.

Switzerland’s Swatch Group has withdrawn as official timekeeping sponsor of the alpine skiing World Cup.

The group said the International Ski Federation had failed to grant it exclusive rights to races.

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