Swiss soccer, hockey leagues delay season for bigger crowds

BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Soccer and ice hockey leagues in Switzerland delayed their season start dates on Friday to create fairer and more profitable programs after crowd size limits during the pandemic were eased.

Swiss federal lawmakers said Wednesday teams can from Oct. 1 add thousands of spectators to a long-standing 1,000-person limit for public events if approved by local authorities.

Soccer and hockey clubs in the alpine nation of 8.5 million people have warned they will struggle to survive without more match-day income.

The Swiss Football League said its top-tier division will start one week later on Sept. 18. Each team will now have one home game before Oct. 1 instead of some having two with fewer fans.

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The hockey league said its two divisions will now start on Oct. 1 instead of mid-September.

Both leagues are working on safety protocols to mandate wearing a mask at stadiums, barring away fans, and registering spectators’ contacts to trace them in case of infections.

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Switzerland has steadily increased in August to around 270 per day. It was below 20 in June.

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