Tensions ease between Swiss-Ski and Wengen organisers after CHF300,000 donation

Swiss-Ski, the sport’s national governing body in Switzerland, has withdrawn its request to remove the iconic race in Wengen race from the provisional 2021-22 FIS World Cup calendar as it seeks a resolution to the row over the share of commercial revenues.

The federation’s action comes after it received a CHF300,000 (€282,880/$310,644) donation from businessman and Swiss-Ski benefactor Jörg Moser to go towards the organisers’ running costs.

A long-running feud between Swiss-Ski and the race organisers reignited last week after the governing body asked the International Ski Federation (FIS) to remove Wengen from the 2021-22 calendar and replace it with the Swiss country code ‘SUI’ instead.

All organisers of World Cup stages in Switzerland receive a share of broadcast and sponsorship revenues from a central commercial pot that is decided upon according to the importance and prestige of the event. Organisers in Wengen have been pushing to receive an additional CHF1m per year.

The donation received by Swiss-Ski will help cover the organisers’ deficit that the governing body claims to be between CHF300,000 and CHF400,000. It will also provide more time for more negotiations to be held with organisers and Swiss politicians in bid to resolve the dispute.

Along with withdrawing the calendar request, Swiss-Ski has also outlined a three-point plan to settle the issue.

This includes an improvement of the organisers’ commercialisation of the event with the help of specialists provided by the governing body and also increased state funding. Should the organisers still be faced with financial difficulties thereafter, Swiss-Ski said it would also provide additional support of up to €100,000.

A delegation from Swiss-Ski is to meet with the organising committee on Thursday for further discussions. In a bid to derive greater state support, officials will also meet representatives of Switzerland’s Federal Council, the cantonal government in Bern and Switzerland’s Federal Office of Sport.

In response to the developments, Urs Näpflin, head of the organising committee, told SRG SSR, the Swiss public broadcaster: “I am very pleased and glad that we are finally meeting at the same table. We have been trying to do this for four years. I am also glad that there are some concrete signs to find a solution.”

The annual budget of the races at Wengen’s famous Lauberhorn is between CHF7m and CHF8m.

The disaccord between organisers and Swiss-Ski first surfaced in 2016 and continues to be examined by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. Swiss-Ski has warned that it will not meet the organisers’ request for the additional CHF1m.

Urs Lehmann, president of Swiss-Ski, said that the national association is “in favour of spectacular races against the backdrop of Lauberhorn’s spectacular scenery, but not at any price”.

Gian-Franco Kasper, the FIS president, said in January that the international federation “certainly does not want to lose Wengen as a World Cup venue”, and described the Lauberhorn as “one of our largest and best-known races”.

Swiss-Ski holds an international broadcast rights deal with the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of public-service broadcasters, from 2016-17 to 2021-22. Domestic broadcast rights are held by public broadcaster SRG SSR, also in a six-year deal to 2022. Swiss Ski Weltcup Marketing AG, a subsidiary of the national federation, handles the sale of sponsorship rights.

Crans-Montana in Valais, which is bidding for the 2025 Alpine World Ski Championships, is considered the most likely replacement on the 2021-22 calendar in the event that Wengen is excluded.