The three top Swiss hockey leagues have decided that they will postpone upcoming games. This is due to the coronavirus and creates a lot of questions
Today the Swiss and National Leagues had a meeting near Berne. At this meeting, they decided to put all the games on hold until the national minister of health provides more information. At the moment there are more than 40 persons infected with the coronavirus and over 100 are in quarantine or isolation.
But this postponement of games does not resolve the immense pressure on the league. As one journalist asked league president Dennis Vaucher what will happen to players or staff members if one were infected by the virus, the president shrugged his shoulders and said, “We have no idea how we will deal with this situation. At the moment we are not looking in that scenario as it is not now if any of the players got the virus.”
What Will Happen if a Player or Staff Member Gets the Virus?
How will the league react if there is an infection in one of the teams? The solution would be harsh and the cancelling of all games will be the only path to go. This also means that if a player’s family member gets infected, the league has to shut down the season and cancel it.
The financial loss for all teams will be huge. Not all the clubs have insurance for that situation. As far as I know, HC Davos is the only team with this type of insurance. But not all clubs reveal this information. So the possibility that there are other uninsured teams is high. Those clubs would be almost guaranteed to finish the season with a budget deficit.
On the other hand, there are teams, like SC Bern, who have insurance for these situations. The problem there is, that the insurance company will only pay a certain amount of money and that amount is definitely less than what the clubs usually gain in the playoffs.
Also, the huge problem at the moment is the TV contracts. The contracts of the TV channel MySports, who owns the rights for the whole season, and the state television channel, SRF, have contracts worth tens of millions in Swiss Francs. How will the companies deal with this situation? Are they pushing the league to play all games, even if there is a possibility to get infected with this virus?
Doubting League Leadership
At this point, Vaucher has not answered that question either. To me, this comes across as though the three top leagues in Switzerland do not have an emergency backup plan. They did not even discuss the possibilities of shortened playoffs or what they will do after a possible cancellation of the season. But, on the other hand, fans are having some fun.
To me, it seems as though there was no conclusion at all; and no real plan with the virus outbreak. The whole assembly looked to me like a circus. “We do something, but we do not concentrate on the possible outcome of the future of this season,” said Vaucher. As for me, at this point, the leagues have a huge leadership problem in Vaucher. If the clubs have the last say, he even should have prepared a backup plan at least. Even if it was taking a strong position that the league is considering cancelling the remainder of the season, not crowning a champion, and having no relegation or promotion this season.
The best way to deal with the outburst of the virus and the possibility of cancelling the season was demonstrated by the IIHF. The IIHF, with their headquarters in Zurich, said last Friday that they need a proper answer from the Swiss government at the beginning of April. René Fasel, the Swiss president of the federation, looks better prepared than the Swiss domestic leagues. The leagues are choosing to do nothing at all and are putting their faith in the government. But let me be clear: the season will not be saved on March 15 when the minister of health, Alain Berset, will provide an update. I expect that Berset will prolong the order and there will be no more hockey in Switzerland this season.
World Championships Still On
But will this affect the World Championships in Lausanne and Zurich? No, not at all. To cancel the World Championships would have a big impact on the finances of the IIHF and the Swiss Hockey Federation. They will do everything possible to host that event. Even if this means that Fasel has to meet Berset in person.
Since 1977 in hockey. referee for 15 years, since 2000 journalist. I did cover over 10 WJC, 10 World Championships and 2 Olympics (2006 and 2010) I was born in Berne where my home town club is. SC Bern is, outside of the NHL, the club with the most spectators. Every year they have about 16`000 per game.