World football's masters reign from Switzerland


Beyond its role as co-host of Euro 2008, Switzerland has strong ties with football. The country is home to the world and European football bodies, Fifa and Uefa.

This content was published on January 2, 2008 - 14:05

Like numerous other international sports federations, they have chosen Switzerland as the place to establish their headquarters mainly due to the flexibility of Swiss law and the presence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.

It is no secret that over the past 15 years, Switzerland has evolved into a global centre for sports administration. A total of 23 international sports federations have set up their headquarters in the Lausanne region alone, including the international volleyball, swimming and archery federations.

Elsewhere in Switzerland, there are half a dozen others, including the International Ski Federation in Oberhofen near Thun, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa), both in Zurich, and the International Basketball Federation in Geneva.

According to Denis Oswald, recently re-elected as head of the Lausanne-based International Rowing Federation, there are several reasons for this concentration.

"There are historical factors – economic and political stability – linked to the country's neutral status," he explained. "But also the presence of the IOC and interesting tax exemptions."

"But I think the main reason is the flexibility of articles of the Swiss Civil Code relating to associations, which leave considerable freedom in terms of the structure, organisation and functioning of these bodies," he added.

In Switzerland an association can exist from the moment it adopts its statutes. And it does not require a special permit or need to be officially registered in a certain location.

Jean-Loup Chappelet, professor at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration in Lausanne and specialist in IOC and sports federation questions, explained that once an organisation arrives in Switzerland it then reworks its statutes to be considered a non-profit making organisation under Swiss law.

"The large number of federations setting up in Switzerland has created a critical mass that allows those institutions present to easily exchange ideas, meet and gain access to information. The time-saving aspect is huge," he said.

Football bodies

Fifa has managed to benefit from this proximity, especially since French football legend Michel Platini – former personal adviser to Swiss Fifa President Sepp Blatter – took over as Uefa President in Nyon in western Switzerland.

Fifa has been based in Switzerland since 1932 just after the first World Cup in Uruguay when it chose Zurich as its headquarters.

"Switzerland's central location in the heart of Europe and its stability have also played a major role. What's more, Switzerland's multicultural society was a great advantage when recruiting staff," said Andreas Herren, Fifa's acting communication director.

"Moving headquarters is almost unthinkable, as it would require a three-quarters' voting majority during a congress session."

Uefa was created in 1954 and initially established its headquarters in Paris before moving to Bern, and then Nyon, in 1995.

"The current situation is perfect and the cantonal and federal authorities show enormous flexibility; the working conditions are very good," explained Jean-Paul Turrian, director of Uefa's services division.

Turrian explained that with the success of the Champions League football competition and the rise in the number of different games being played, Uefa required easy access to one of the main Swiss airports. Nyon is close to Geneva airport.

But Chappelet sees it slightly differently: "A Bernese judge had imposed a number of temporary conditions ahead of a Champions League match with Marseille. The measures were finally dropped but Uefa felt the procedural conditions were much easier in canton Vaud and decided to leave Bern."

swissinfo, based on an article in French by Mathias Froidevaux

International sports federations in Switzerland

Switzerland is currently home to 30 international sports federations. By way of comparison, Britain, the second most popular destination, only has six.

In the Lausanne region alone, there are 23 organisations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa).

The region also hosts international federations for athletics, rowing, bobsleighing, boxing, canoeing, fencing, swimming, volleyball, wrestling, motorcycling and cycling.

There are five Swiss in charge of international sports federations who are also IOC members: René Fasel (ice hockey), Gian-Franco Kasper (skiing), Patrick Baumann (General-secretary - Basketball), Sepp Blatter (Fifa) and Denis Oswald (rowing).

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