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Uefa sidesteps Swiss Euro 2008 funding row

Swiss Euro 2008 preparations have hit another snag

(Keystone)

European football's governing body, Uefa, has played down a funding row between the Swiss government and the four cities selected to host Euro 2008 matches.

Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern fear local parliaments will refuse to foot their share of the tournament costs unless the government raises its offer to contribute SFr72 million ($56 million).

Uefa chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson said he was unconcerned that Switzerland's bill for hosting the tournament had rocketed from an estimated SFr10.5 million in 2002 to SFr178 million, largely because of increased security demands.

"I have been involved in the organisation of European Championships since 1992, and we have always had exactly the same discussions in all the countries involved," he said in Nyon on Thursday.

"Everybody is generally optimistic after they win a bid and tend to underestimate the costs. Then when everything is concrete and on paper it always creates these discussions, but we have always been able to find good solutions."

Switzerland's host cities have warned of "catastrophic damage" to the country's image if the funding dispute is not resolved.

Disappointment

"We are disappointed with the government's proposed contribution," Daniel Rupf, Zurich city's Euro 2008 delegate, told swissinfo.

"The host cities are organising events that will contribute considerably to the image of the country. We expected a considerable financial contribution from the government to our running costs.

Rupf pointed out that a local vote was needed before the city could commit large sums of money. He said that while the people of Zurich had been very supportive of the project, there was a limit to how much money they would be prepared to pay.

The row is the second embarrassing hitch in Switzerland's preparations. Zurich was nearly forced to pull out of hosting matches last year after plans to renovate its Hardturm stadium were rejected by locals.

Organisers managed to salvage the situation by switching to an alternative venue after Uefa threatened to strip Switzerland of the right to host the tournament.

Austrian example

Switzerland's bumpy preparations are in stark contrast to the smooth progress being made by co-hosts Austria that already has a funding programme in place.

But Olsson said he was happy with tournament preparations despite Switzerland's problems.

"Compared to Portugal 2004 [the venue of the last European championships] I would even say the 2008 plans are very much ahead," he said.

The Swiss parliament is due to debate the government's proposed SFr72-million subsidy package next year.

Sponsorship deal

Meanwhile, Swiss banking giant UBS has signed up as a major official sponsor of the tournament for an undisclosed sum.

UBS will receive lucrative marketing rights as Switzerland's official bank of Euro 2008 after becoming one of four National Supporters.

Uefa would not disclose who they are negotiating with for the other three Swiss contracts.

The deal comes as something of a surprise as banking rival Credit Suisse has been the main sponsor of the Swiss national team for the past ten years.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen with agencies

Key facts

In 2002 the cost of hosting Euro 2008 was estimated at SFr10.5 million, with the government's contribution set at SFr3.5 million.
The cost has risen now to SFr178 million, of which the government plans to contribute SFr72 million.
The breakdown of the estimated SFr178 million cost of hosting Euro 2008:
Security: SFr65.6 million
Transport: SFr 23.7 million
Marketing: SFr22.2 million
Special Events: SFr17 million
Administration: SFr7.5 million
Stadium Investment: SFr22.3 million

end of infobox

In brief

The Swiss parliament on Thursday began discussing legal amendments in a bid to fight hooliganism at sports grounds.

A majority in the House of Representatives agreed to set up a database of known troublemakers and impose banning and detention orders, as well as travel restrictions.

The House wants the laws to be a permanent measure despite a government recommendation that they should expire after the tournament and objections from a minority of Green Party parliamentarians and centre-left Social Democrats.

The debate on the law in the other parliamentary chamber, the Senate, is due at a later date.

end of infobox


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