TV money spat puts future of Wengen FIS World Cup at risk
The distribution of media rights revenue is at the heart of a spat between Swiss-Ski, the national skiing body, and the organisers of the Lauberhorn men’s downhill in Wengen, which has resulted in the signature race on the FIS Alpine World Cup schedule being struck off the calendar from 2022.
At an Alpine World Cup committee meeting yesterday, Swiss-Ski submitted a request to remove Wengen from the 2021-22 World Cup calendar and replace its races with events at another Swiss location.
The Wengen organising committee, which claimed it was not pre-warned of Swiss-Ski's plans, confirmed an ongoing legal case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The two organisations are understood to have been at odds for the past three years over a financial contract.
Urs Napflin, chief executive of the Wengen OC, said: "We are clearly of the opinion that we are entitled to more money from Swiss Ski, above all from TV rights."
He put the figure at around SFr1 million ($1.03 million).
Eurovision Sport, the sports arm of the European Broadcasting Union, holds the broadcast rights to FIS World Cup skiing events in Switzerland, including racing in Wengen, until 2022.
Swiss-Ski said it cannot "meet the financial demands" of the Wengen OC and that, because of the case at CAS, had decided to limit its risk on the 2021-22 schedule by proposing a placeholder 'Switzerland' designation instead of Wengen.
The Wengen OC said in its statement: "The unauthorised approach of Swiss Ski is astonishing and alienated. The fact that Urs Lehmann [president of Swiss Ski] emphasised 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.”
Wengen has been a fixture on the men’s World Cup since the debut 1967 season, and next January’s races were set to make up the 91st annual Lauberhorn meeting.
The Saturday downhill typically attracts 30,000 spectators and one of the biggest TV audiences of the year for SRF, the German arm of the Swiss public broadcaster.
Lehmann is running for the presidency of FIS, the sport's international federation.