At Alpine FIS World Cup committee meeting on Wednesday, May 20, the Swiss Ski federation submitted a request to remove Wengen from the World Cup calendar in 2022 and replace those races with another Swiss location. The submission comes after a longstanding dispute between Wengen’s organizing committee and Swiss Ski over the financials of the event.
After the 2016-17 season, the two organizations were unable to reach a compromise on the distribution of funds generated by the event. No contract has been signed between the two entities since 2018, and the organizations are currently in proceedings before the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where an interim agreement was issued earlier this spring. The content of said agreement has not yet been disclosed to the public, but the move made by Swiss Ski in Wednesday’s meeting signals discontent as it has requested to withdraw the legendary tour stop from the circuit. According to a press release from the OC, the application was distributed to FIS unbeknownst to Wengen’s OC and was asked to be kept the application a secret.
“The unauthorized approach of Swiss Ski is astonishing and alienated,” Wengen’s OC wrote in a press release on the matter. “The fact that Urs Lehmann [President of Swiss Ski] emphasized the extraordinary importance of the international Lauberhorn races in Wengen [in interviews] on May 9 and 11, 2020 and only a few days later requests that these races be deleted from the FIS World Cup calendar is in no way understandable. In today’s uncertain time, a clear and sincere
strategy would be of great importance.”
According to NZZ, in 2019 the Lauberhorn races took a loss of 270,000 CHF despite a record number of spectators. Wengen has had to continuously invest in infrastructure for the event and in recent years the budget for the races has increased to 9 million CHF, which from the OC’s perspective is still not enough according to the report. The OC receives direct income from ticketing, the sale of VIP packages or sponsorship packages. Swiss Ski receives funding from fulfilling TV and sponsorship contracts, which would still flow even without spectators. If the World Cup were to move forward without spectators in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it could result in financial complications for the organizers.
“We’re talking about an additional million francs a year,” counters Bernhard Aregger, CEO of Swiss-Ski. “Swiss Ski cannot and will not pay for this, otherwise we would have to cut back on [other] sports. Wengen already gets more than twice as much as any other organizer.”
According to a statement made by Swiss Ski, on May 20, the organization aims to ensure that attractive and profitable World Cup races can continue to take place in Switzerland, including on the Lauberhorn. On the other hand, Wengen’s OC considers the move as a snub to one of the most historic, and popular events on the World Cup Tour.
“This approach is absolutely unworthy of a long-standing and successful partnership, and in no way corresponds to good governance,” the OC stated in their release. “Despite this unsportsmanlike approach, the OC of the Lauberhorn races is still open to solutions based on partnership.”
Uncertainty remains if Swiss Ski and the OC will be able to reach an agreement now that FIS is involved. If Wengen is indeed taken off the World Cup calendar for 2022, then the tour slot would fall back into the hands of the FIS and could be redistributed to another host country. A year remains before an official decision must be reached. For now, negotiations continue between Swiss Ski and Wengen’s OC.