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12 instead of 10 teams? Discussions about a new mode of the Super League

FCZ striker Kramer in front of Thun goalie Faivre. Image: KEYSTONE

Mode is not the biggest problem in the Super League

Once again, Swiss football is discussing a change in mode. Currently in focus: increasing the Super League from ten to twelve teams. Swiss club football is fighting for the attention of spectators in a changing world.

The second half of the Super League begins at the weekend. Does anyone know? Skiing dominates, with the magnificent Lauberhorn triumph of Beat Feuz, the amazing Swiss slalom team and Kitzbühel, which is just around the corner. It will be fresh when FC Zurich meets FC Lucerne on Saturday in the drafty Letzigrund at 7 p.m.

Spectators will also shake with a new mode, even more often because there could be 38 instead of 36 laps from the season after next 2021/22. The mode, the advantages and disadvantages of which are now being weighed up, is practiced in Scotland. Twelve teams play against each other three times. Then the league is halved, the top and bottom six teams play again against each other.

This is how it should look:

A victim of globalization

In extreme cases, a team plays only once against Basel and YB at home, maybe on a cold Wednesday evening, but twice against Xamax, Lugano or Thun. The head of finance of the club concerned is moaning and the accusation of distortion of competition will be heard loudly, because some club, its officials and its supporters will always feel cheated.

But Swiss club football has a completely different problem than the possibly uneven number of attractive home games. The fact that the world has turned into a village does not only affect clothing sellers. Many stores close because they shop online or abroad. Applied to football, globalization means that fans see that it is more exciting elsewhere than at home. And opt for it.

Six out of seven seats remained empty when Lugano played at Servette in the fall. Image: KEYSTONE

The big football world is just a push of a button away

In German-speaking Switzerland, the majority of football fans are primarily interested in the German Bundesliga with its many Swiss national team players, the English Premier League and the Champions League. The 19-year-old Erling Braut Haaland, who scored three goals in his debut for BVB, fascinates far beyond the borders. Like Cristiano Ronaldo, whether he plays at Real Madrid or Juventus Turin. And that Liverpool is now the champion again with highly attractive football after 30 years of eternal waiting. Everything is available.

Everyone’s time budget is limited, you can’t watch football endlessly (even if many would like to). So in the end you choose the premium product. The result of this can be seen all over the country on every soccer field. When children “chatter”, it is less often than in the jersey of the regional Super League club, but often in Messi’s Barça jersey, Ronaldo’s Juve jersey or in the yellow and black Dortmund outfit.

Quality has dropped

In the stadiums, the response is still good. The average audience in the Super League is consistently over 11,000 fans. That is almost twice as many spectators as 20 years ago when the many new stadiums were only projects. And there are much more than in Austria (6500 spectators on average), which is comparable in terms of population and football class.

The Swiss clubs are doing a lot of things right. This can also be seen in the results of the national team, which has established itself in the extended top of the world. The Super League as a training league is a reality.

But now the status is at risk. Relentlessly, a look at the UEFA five-year ranking shows a loss of substance in the Super League. The Swiss clubs are not as good anymore and it will be more difficult for them to reach the Champions League. The gap to the big leagues continues to widen. Talents are looking for the way there even faster: to a sporting challenge, to higher salaries.

Heraldic kisser here and there

Is Albian Ajeti happy on West Ham United’s bench? The former top scorer of the Super League has eight appearances and only 126 minutes in total, he did not score a goal and West Ham only scored two points in these eight games. Ajeti cannot really be an issue for the 2020 European Championship. Had he stayed at FC Basel, he would have scored 15, 20 or 25 goals and thus forced himself on the national team.

Ajeti’s move symbolizes another major Super League problem: lack of loyalty. Players who have been with a club for over ten years, such as goalies Marco Wölfli and Dave Zibung or like midfielders Marco Schönbächler and Dennis Hediger, are getting fewer and fewer. On average, a Super League player has been in his club’s squad for two years, then he moves on. How can a fan identify with the team? While he proudly worships the same colors for a lifetime, the hero he just revered as a hero may kiss the arch-rival’s coat of arms next week.

In the beginning it may be exciting to dream after each transfer period that his club has just discovered a new gem. However, if seven out of ten jewels from all over the world prove to be flops and three simply suffice and nothing more, then the constant change quickly loses its appeal. As soon as you know a player, he is already gone. The Bosman judgment, which opened the borders for footballers, is both a curse and a blessing.

Decision in two months

We live in a fast-moving time in which Swiss football has to compete against foreign clubs and a variety of other leisure activities for the favor of the spectators. At FC St.Gallen, for example, President Matthias Hüppi has decided that the club will be preparing for the summer in the region. This is called “Espen on tour”, sometimes training takes place on Lake Constance, sometimes in Toggenburg, sometimes in the Rhine Valley. The fans come in droves and appreciate this closeness. Just like boys and girls who are allowed to walk hand in hand with the players into the stadium before a Super League game, the club fixes them.

Presidents in the tenue légère: Matthias Hüppi (FC St.Gallen) and Ancillo Canepa (FC Zurich). Image: KEYSTONE

Will a new mode solve these big problems in Swiss club football? Can this stimulate interest? Can the quality be increased again? This is now being carefully considered. In mid-March, an extraordinary general assembly of the Swiss Football League will decide whether the league should be increased from ten to twelve teams.

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