Credit Suisse collapse leaves sports sponsorships in limbo

The Swiss national football team, tennis great Roger Federer, golf star Sergio Garcia and Zurich’s new stadium were all sponsored by the bank, which is being taken over by Swiss rival UBS. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA – The takeover of Swiss bank Credit Suisse leaves many sports stars, teams and tournaments with a big question mark hanging over their lucrative sponsorship deals.

The Swiss national football team, the country’s top football division, tennis great Roger Federer, golf star Sergio Garcia and Zurich’s new stadium were all sponsored by the bank, which is being taken over by Swiss rival UBS.

The deal was hastily arranged on Sunday after Credit Suisse’s share price plunged.

Golf and other events also relied on Credit Suisse money, as did the Swiss Sport Aid Foundation, which backs talented young athletes.

“Our sponsorships reflect our passion for excellence, sustainability, and partnership,” Credit Suisse said.

The Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper said that no matter how much Credit Suisse got embroiled in scandals or rejigged its strategies, “the bank has always been a reliable partner for sport”.

“For the time being, we will continue our corresponding commitments unchanged,” a Credit Suisse spokesman told AFP.

But UBS, which has its own portfolio of sport sponsorships focusing on Formula One, athletics and ice hockey, may not necessarily continue with the deals.

Credit Suisse has been the main sponsor of the Swiss Football Association (SFA) governing body since 1993.

The men’s national team, ranked 12th in the world, have enjoyed some of their best years since the bank came on board.

Having appeared at only two World Cups from 1966 to 1994, Switzerland have qualified for the last five editions, reaching the last 16 in four of those tournaments.

The deal with Credit Suisse runs until June 30, 2024. It is worth around 5 million Swiss francs (S$7.2 million) per year, according to Blick newspaper.

The Credit Suisse logo will stay on the national teams’ training jackets and jerseys for as long as the bank exists, SFA spokesman Adrian Arnold said ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Belarus.

“We had good discussions with our contacts at Credit Suisse, who assured us that the existing contracts would be honoured,” Arnold said.

“We would like the partnership to continue thereafter, in whatever form.”

Credit Suisse is also the main sponsor of Switzerland’s bid to host the 2025 Women’s European football championship, and the takeover comes shortly before a decision is due on April 4.

The bank is the title sponsor of the Super League, Switzerland’s 10-team top football division, including well-known clubs like Young Boys, Grasshopper, FC Zurich and FC Basel.

Blick said the contract runs until 2025 and is worth around 8 million Swiss francs per season.

Money goes into every club as well as the tournament, with the bank’s name appearing on all team strips and on advertising boards around the stadiums.

In 2019, the bank won the naming rights for a proposed new football stadium in Zurich, but the planned Credit Suisse Arena has faced delays.

It was due to open in mid-2022, but little progress has been made and its future now seems even more uncertain.

Federer, 41, is by far the biggest name associated with Credit Suisse.

Although Switzerland’s greatest sports star retired in September with 20 Grand Slams, he remains a brand ambassador of Credit Suisse.

The bank was on board for his transition into a post-tennis career, saying: “We look forward to many more years together.”

Federer is by far the biggest name associated with Credit Suisse. PHOTO: REUTERS

Credit Suisse also sponsors the Laver Cup, which was initiated by Federer and features six top men’s tennis players from Europe against six from the rest of the world, captained by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

The Laver Cup did not respond when contacted by AFP.

In golf, Credit Suisse sponsored the European Masters golf tournament and Spanish former world No. 2 Garcia, who won the 2017 Masters.

European Masters tournament director Yves Mittaz said the contract runs until the 2024 tournament so the event is not at risk.

“There is no reason to panic,” he told the Tribune de Geneve newspaper.

“That’s the business of sport: sponsors leave, others arrive.” AFP

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