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Sports News

Swiss demand pay cuts from sports clubs in return for COVID aid

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland demanded 20% pay cuts from top players and coaches in return for aid to sports clubs pushed to the brink of collapse by vanishing ticket sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government detailed a 350 million Swiss franc ($384 million) loan scheme for top soccer, ice hockey and other clubs who have lost income after virus restrictions forced them to play without spectators.

Under the proposals announced on Wednesday, grants of up to 115 million francs will be handed out next year, designed to replace up to two-thirds of lost revenue.

Clubs must also ditch paying dividends for five years and maintain their youth and women’s set-ups.

“The sport clubs and the professional leagues have been hit hard,” Sport Minister Viola Amherd told a news conference in Bern.

“Many clubs are facing an existential threat. We have to make sure our sporting structure does not go under in the crisis, and we have to build it up again.”

People who earn up to 148,000 francs would be unaffected by the pay cuts, Amherd said, adding: “We thought a reduction by a fifth was a level that you can justify.”

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said sport needed support because of the wider role it plays in society.

The aid was welcomed by the Swiss Football League, with Chief Executive Claudius Schaefer saying it showed the government recognised the “very difficult” situation of clubs as well as their social and economic importance.

The government also proposed more than doubling a fund for hard-hit companies to 1 billion Swiss francs from 400 million francs previously.

Short-time working compensation schemes would be extended, the government said, to include trainees and temporary staff.

Still, it held off for now reactivating its emergency loan guarantee scheme, which supported nearly 17 billion francs in state-backed credits this year.

Maurer said the first payments under the hardship fund were expected in December.

“It won’t be as fast as in the spring. Hardship cases need to be analysed,” Maurer said. “Just giving money and then closing one’s eyes, that won’t work.”

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields and Christian Radnedge

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