New football season awaits Euro 2008 effect

FC Basel won the league and cup double last season Keystone

Football clubs were hoping that Switzerland's poor showing at Euro 2008 would not reverse a trend of rising attendances when the new season kicked off on Friday.

This content was published on July 18, 2008 minutes

Last season saw average crowd numbers at top flight games break the 10,000 barrier for the first time, as FC Basel won their fourth championship in seven years during a pulsating final weekend.

But it remains to be seen if domestic football fever blows as hot after Switzerland's disappointing exit from the European championships, that it was co-hosting with Austria in June.

Swiss football league (SFL) spokesman, Roger Müller, told swissinfo that the recent rise in fans is attributable not only to the Swiss national side reaching three major finals in a row, but also to new improved stadiums springing up, particularly for Euro 2008.

However, he admitted that the failure of Switzerland at the tournament, coupled with the relegation of St Gallen into the second division, could hit attendance figures.

"Euro 2008 presented a very mixed image for Swiss football fans. On the one side, we really hoped that the national side could have played better. But on the other hand, the tournament has certainly raised awareness of football," he said.

"It is okay if we do not see a rise in crowd numbers every season as long as there is a positive trend over the long run. We are very confident this will happen."

Trio of favourites

Basel and Young Boys of Bern took the championship to the wire last season before Basel beat their closest rivals on the last day. It was the third year in a row that the title was decided in the final round of matches.

The two clubs will raise the curtain on this season as they meet for the opening match at the Stade de Suisse in Bern on Friday evening. They along with FC Zurich will again start as favourites.

Young Boys will have to do without their Swiss international playmaker Hakan Yakin who has gone to try his luck in Qatar. For her part, Basel owner Gisela "Gigi" Oeri is confident of her side's chance of retaining their crown, stating that they have the best set of players since she joined the club's board in 1999.

The Super League will also be freshened up by the arrival of Liechtenstein side Vaduz, marking their debut season in the top flight, and the return of Bellinzona as the first representatives of the Italian-speaking canton Tessin since 2002.

Several players will hope to catch the eye of new Swiss national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who replaced Köbi Kuhn after Euro 2008.

Safety drive

Last season did not escape without controversies and the SFL will not want to see a repeat of some hooligan problems and a sex scandal at Thun involving a minor.

FC Zurich and St Gallen were hit with hefty fines after crowd problems last season and Zurich will play their first two home matches behind closed doors.

A new closed circuit television system will be trialled this season both inside and outside stadiums. The project, called Safety in Sport, will also target better communication between club fan liaison officers and supporters' groups.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Opening fixtures

July 18: Young Boys vs Basel
July 19: Aarau vs Sion
July 20: Lucerne vs Vaduz & Xamax Neuchâtel vs FC Zurich
July 23: Zurich Grasshoppers vs Bellinzona

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2007/8 season facts

The 2007/8 season saw FC Basel wrest the title away from FC Zurich, who had clinched the championship in the previous two seasons. It was Basel's 12th title and the club also did the double after winning the Swiss Cup.

Turnstiles in the Swiss top division, the Super League, registered nearly 15% more fans last season, with an average attendance of 10,917. Around the same rate of increase was observed in the previous season after the national side reached the last 16 in the 2006 World Cup.

The Super League saw a total of 1,964,993 fans at 36 matches. Basel attracted the most fans per match (25,539), followed by Young Boys (18,571) and FC Zurich (12,186).

Hakan Yakin from Young Boys was the league's top scorer with 24 goals and his club were the most prolific finishers (82 goals). There were a total of 522 goals during the campaign, an average of 2.9 per match (2.61 in 2006/7).

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