Where is the greatest enthusiasm and identification with one’s own sports club? How do fan cultures differ? At the height of the football and ice hockey season, we felt the pulse of the ten largest Swiss cities.
Geneva: In the shadow of the past
Count: Population 204,784, average presence Servette FC: 7305, Genève-Servette HC: 4833.
Those who come are faithful. But there were more.Image: KEYSTONE
Pulse measurement: Maybe 10th place is a bit unfair. Perhaps the phase where the glorious Servette made a name for himself with decline, scandals, bankruptcies and bizarre owners is still having too much effect. Meanwhile, the association has recovered thanks to money from the Rolex Foundation. But compared to the German-speaking metropolises of Basel and Bern, Geneva, the country’s second largest city, shows little pathos, at least in football. It is best in ice hockey, although the number of spectators has recently decreased.
It was made up of 12 editorial offices from all regions of CH Media. The jury assessed on the basis of quantitative (relationship between fans and population) and qualitative criteria. Audience figures are from the 2021/22 season. In ice hockey, regular season home games (without playoffs) were considered.
Winterthur: The self-exaltation of being different
Count: Population 117,289, average number of spectators in the current season of FC Winterthur: 4,700, EHC Winterthur: 553 (both teams play in the second highest league).
The cult is celebrated: the matchstick clock, for example, comes from ancient times.Image: KEYSTONE
Pulse measurement: In Winterthur it happened that academics went to handball, workers to football. This has remained the case to some extent to this day. This is why the club is particularly popular in leftist social circles. Don’t resist. On the contrary. For years they have positioned themselves as a slightly different football team. A club where what happens after the match is at least as important as the result. A bit like St. Pauli. That’s why FC Winterthur was soon declared a cult – which is an exaggerated representation – and over 5,000 Challenge League spectators were amazed. In the process, people forget what Winterthur is: although often invisible in the shadow of Zurich, it is still the sixth largest city in Switzerland. Therefore: despite all the sympathy for the cute environment on the Schützenwiese, there is still a lot of room for improvement in this city when it comes to enthusiasm for sport.
Biel: A qualitative leap in the city of the clock
Count: Population 56,449, average number of spectators at the EHC Biel: 5,263.
The rule is: “Ici c’est Bienne!”Image: keystone
Pulse measurement: In 2015 Biel made a qualitative leap as a city of sport. The Tissot Arena is inaugurated, perhaps the most modern multifunctional sports hall in Switzerland with a football stadium (5200 seats), an ice hockey stadium (6521 seats) and a curling hall. Like Zug, Biel is now an important ice hockey city: there is no way to move in the club either for politics or business. The fact that the Magglingen Performance Center, an important part of top-level Swiss sport, is located in the immediate vicinity of the city also has an effect. Only football has been in poor shape since bankruptcy.
Lugano: The Hockey Club as a power factor
Count: Population 66,491, average number of spectators this season: FC Lugano: 2819, HC Lugano: 4960.
In the Resega it is often hot.Image: KEYSTONE / TI-PRESS
Pulse measurement: As in French-speaking Switzerland, in Ticino the enthusiasm for ice hockey is greater than for football (especially at the time of the “Grande Lugano”, but also in the 2000s). The football team played in the Challenge League from 2004 to 2015 and this bear market is having an impact. The Hockey Club Lugano, on the other hand, is an institution in the city, although in German-speaking Switzerland this is often misunderstood, because the Ticino-based rival Ambri-Piotta in the north of the Gotthard enjoys great sympathy and boasts a record number of fan clubs.
Lausanne: A great moat of enthusiasm
Count: Population 146,910, average attendance this season: Lausanne-Sport: 5160, Lausanne HC: 6052.
Ice hockey is more attractive than football.Image: keystone
Pulse measurement: In recent years there has been a spirit of sporting optimism in Lausanne, thanks to two new stadiums. In 2019, Lausanne HC played for the first time at the Vaudoise Arena, which was built for 200 million. With 9,600 seats, it is the largest ice hockey stadium in western Switzerland. Just a year later, FC Lausanne-Sport’s Stade de la Tuilière replaced the moody “Pontaise” with 12,544 seats. But there is a big gap in enthusiasm between football and ice hockey. Lausanne has clearly evolved into an ice hockey city with a strong fan culture over the past two decades, even though the LHC has only returned to being the top since 2013. In football, the seven-time champion and nine-time winner of the Lausanne-Sports cup has grown and fallen again and again in this millennium. But since the club was sold to Ineos, the soul has been lost. And don’t forget: Lausanne is also the capital of international sports federations.
Zurich: success with supercool pathos
Count: Population 436,332, average number of spectators this season: FC Zurich: 12,963, GC: 5885, ZSC Lions: 8020.
The FCZ is about to win the world title.Image: keystone
Pulse measurement: When it comes to sporting success, Zurich is the clear number 1 among the biggest cities in football and ice hockey this season. Both FCZ and ZSC Lions can become champions on Sunday. Two clubs are the best, but the city vibrates little, unmatched to Bern, when YB and SCB both faced title wins. The two Z-Clubs have huge fans, but the euphoria doesn’t extend far beyond the Hallenstadion and the Letzigrundstadion. Also telling: the last home game of the ZSC on Friday night, the Hallenstadion was sold out, but there was no audience anywhere. And yes … there is GC! The soccer record champion appears to be completely eradicated. Otherwise, economic freedom would not have allowed the sale to Chinese investors.
Lucerne: the potential of sporting ecstasy
Count: Population 83,040, average number of spectators at FC Luzern this season: 10,415.
The celebration of the cup final in Corona’s time had consequences.Image: keystone
Pulse measurement: There have been times when Lucerne would have been number 1 or 2 because it is a fiery sporting city. At the moment, however, central Switzerland is lacking in passion. Unlike FC St. Gallen, the atmosphere in the new stadium does not match that of the old Allmend. When FCL became champions in 1989, there was ecstasy in the city of lights for weeks, then also when they won the cup in 1992. And again last year: after the victory over St. Gallen in the cup final in front of empty seats in Wankdorf, 10,000 fans greeted the heroes with the Sandoz Trophy on their return from Bern, although the celebration was officially banned due to Corona. However, the percentage of “fan of success” appears to have increased slightly. The club is of great importance for the creation of identity in the city and in the region. FCL is as much an argument at the regulars table as it is at the “rude” carnival. And the enthusiasm of the people here is also evident from the international matches: the atmosphere in Lucerne is more euphoric than at matches in Basel or Bern.
Bern: two clubs combine all levels together
Count: Population 143,154, average spectators of YB this season: 24,528 and of SCB: 13,348.
YB is the club for city dwellers, SCB is more frequented by people from outside.Image: keystone
Pulse measurement: Bern is and remains an immensely sports-loving city, but the heart rate was already higher. In terms of numbers, no one can keep up with Bern: SCB not only has the highest number of spectators in ice hockey in Switzerland, but in all of Europe. Especially thanks to the fans of the country. And YB, which is more urban, also pleases the crowd. But the problems of SCB, which has also been marred by economic success, and the end of the YB streak are depressing. In terms of potential, however, Bern remains at the forefront. The identification with the two top clubs is enormous, together they cover all levels.
St. Gallen: the city with the greatest enthusiasm
Count: Population 80,213, average number of spectators at FC St. Gallen this season: 15,205. The rate of 19 percent (ratio of spectators to residents) is the highest here for the ten largest cities.
Even in the new stadium the atmosphere is often bright.Image: KEYSTONE
Pulse measurement: St. Gallen comes in second place because the level of enthusiasm, also measured by the volume of fans, is nowhere greater than in the eastern Swiss city. And because the FCSG does not have successful fans: if commitment and passion are right and coaches and players identify with the city and the club, defeats are forgiven. Loyal followers stick around even in tough times after club relegations. The FCSG has also succeeded where it has failed elsewhere. The move to a modern stadium has lost none of the legend, on the contrary: in the larger “Kybunpark” the atmosphere is now even better than that of the venerable Espenmoos. No wonder FCSG attracted more spectators than FCZ this past weekend, even though the latter are on their way to winning the championship.
Basel: the identifying element of an entire city
Count: Population 178,689, average number of spectators at FC Basel this season: 21,245.
A memorial was protested against former President Burgener at Barfüsserplatz.Image: keystone
Pulse measurement: Basel, this is FCB. FCB is Basel. In no other city does a sports club have such pervasive social significance as the FCB in Basel. The third largest Swiss city by population is therefore in first place, even if it does not have a prominent ice hockey team like Bern or Zurich (EHC Basel was promoted to the Swiss League a few weeks ago). FCB more than compensated. The fact that Basel’s sporting heart beats faster than any other is reflected in success and failure. Exultant, saddened to death. During the unsuccessful Burgener era, the president almost became a hated figure. But Basel also has self-irony: no carnival without FCB.
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