Swissair's imminent demise poses few immediate difficulties for the many sports events and teams the airline sponsors. But the Swiss skiing federation - to name one group - is busy trying to fill the longer-term financial gap left by the fallen giant.
Swissair says it has fulfilled all its sponsorship obligations for the year 2001, but that it is impossible to say what will happen to those contracts beyond this period. Any sponsorship commitments will have to be reviewed by the new company that emerges from the Swissair debacle, whether Crossair or another.
Swiss Ski, as the Swiss Skiing Federation is now known, is only the most prominent example of Swissair's involvement in sport. Others include the Weltklasse athletics Grand Prix in Zurich, the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel, the Swisscom tennis challenge at Kloten, the European Masters golf tournament in Crans-Montana and the Kloten Flyers ice hockey team.
Swissair was also recently named as the official carrier of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"It's not an easy situation for us, because we have a contract that runs until 2004," says Marc Wälti, head of communications at Swiss Ski. He told swissinfo that the federation had already received the bulk of the 3.5 million francs it was supposed to get from Swissair for the 2001-2 season.
That means stars like Michael von Grünigen, Sonja Nef and Corinne Rey-Bellet will still have the Swissair logo adorning their uniforms when they compete this season.
"The kit has already been made, and will be delivered in a couple of weeks," Wälti says.
Looking beyond the coming season, Swiss Ski will require an equally heavyweight Swiss firm to sponsor it. Ideally, that would be Crossair - which intriguingly already sponsors the Swedish alpine skiing team - or whichever company emerges from the Swissair collapse.
But Wälti revealed that the federation had begun sounding out potential partners a number of weeks ago, once it became clear Swissair was in serious difficulties.
"We had to look at different options and prepare for the situation we find ourselves in now," he says.
"There are not that many big companies in Switzerland who are able to invest millions of francs every year in a sports federation," he adds. There is already speculation that Swisscom and Credit Suisse are the leading candidates to fill the breach left by Swissair, though they will have to be prepared to plough SFr 3.5 million a year into the sport for the privilege.
"Alpine skiing is still the most popular sport in Switzerland and I'm sure that we will find another company to sponsor us, even if the new company that takes over Swissair doesn't want to," Wälti says.
Under Swissair's contract with the IOC, concluded in May, the airline was given a privileged role in carrying passengers and goods for the Olympic Movement. The contract runs until 2004.
"It's still too early to say whether the agreement is now null and void," says IOC Director General François Carrard.
by Roy Probert
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