Monday, August 20, 2012

Just like Austria and Scotland, Switzerland decided to reduce its top league and introduce new formula , hoping to elevate the quality, competitiveness, and financial stability of its football. Only the first division was changed: it was reduced from 14 to 12 participants, which were to play 2-phased championship. Standard 2-legged first phase and after that the league was split in two final groups – the top 6 playing for the title, and the rest – playing for relegation. Rather, to avoid relegation. Every club carried ½ of the points they finished the first phase with. The final mini-leagues were to play again standard 2-legged championship. Thus, some teams were to play four matches against each other during the season, which was to benefit the gates of the best clubs, competing for top spots or traditional derbies. Jumping ahead, the reform was far from final – the Swiss league was to be further transformed into other formats. Overall benefits of experimenting are doubtful, but at least the novelty worked the first season. The contest was closely fought, if numbers tell us anything.

Additionally, Servette and Grasshoppers made big transfers. For various reasons, Switzerland was not a country attracting star players from abroad. Swiss clubs did not look for expensive foreigners either – Teofilo Cubillas was more or less the only high-profile player since the brief appearance of Sandor Kocsis in the second half of the 1950s. And he moved to Portugal after a year. Normally, the best Swiss went abroad, not the other way around. So, it was a bit of surprise: Servette getting the English star striker Martin Chivers from Tottenham Hotspur and Grasshoppers going even higher: the recruited Gunter Netzer, formerly of Real Madrid.

Grassohoppers' new blood for the incoming season – Netzer at the far right.

Sounds like great, serious, expensive attempt to bring really high quality to Swiss football. It was not precisely so – Chivers was 31 and Netzer 32 years old, the best years of both players already behind them. Netzer was quite blunt about playing near-retirement football in relaxing and stress-free atmosphere; Chivers did not say anything, but his idea of going to Switzerland hardly differed from Netzer's. These were not actual stars at the peak of their form, but nevertheless were helpful to the whole of Swiss football – it was exciting to see them live; they still capable of bringing class to their teams; they were positive influence on youngsters. In short, the idea was not some Swiss club suddenly to become European powerhouse, but to make the domestic game classier. Kind of worked... at least for Servette it did.

Below First league everything was same as ever: the normal 16-team Second Division played normal championship, which was 3-club contest.
FC Nordstern (Basel) lost the battle by a point, settling for third place.

Young Fellows (Zurich), the club once upon a time Kocsis played for, captured promotion – they finished second.

Etoile Carouge were first and, naturally, promoted.

None of the promoted looked like able to change the status quo – small clubs were the top three, promoted or not. Not really adding a true derby to the top league – Young Fellows were to be the third club from Zurich playing in First Division, but nothing more. Actually, such clubs were at the bottom of the worries, leading to reform: they were not bettering the top league. They were way weaker than the 5-6 decent clubs.