Athletes in Switzerland are supported partly by donations and foundations. Is the kind of support that Schweizer Sporthilfe provides really necessary?
This is one of the questions I’m most frequently asked as Managing Director of Stiftung Schweizer Sporthilfe. This is most probably because many people interested in sport, in particular the income of athletes, usually think of the top sports with the greatest media coverage, such as football, tennis, Formula 1 or ice hockey. I don’t want to report on turnover, television revenues, sponsorship income or players’ salaries in these domains.
I would like to report on canoeing, slalom, pole vaulting, BMX, ski aerials (acrobatics), diving from the three-metre board, curling and almost other 80 sports, or rather those athletes who participate in these sports at the highest level. That’s currently 1,060 athletes. Stiftung Schweizer Sporthilfe supports them directly on their way from national talent to the top with more than CHF 9 million annually.
The facts for these mostly Olympic and Paralympic sports are clear. According to the study ‘Leistungssport Schweiz / SPLISS CH 2019’ by the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport Magglingen (SFISM), only 17% of all Swiss competitive athletes surveyed have a total annual income of more than CHF 70,000. Of the summer Olympic athletes surveyed, 48% have to get by on an annual income of less than CHF 14,000!
Great public popularity
It is a known fact that almost six million sport enthusiasts in Switzerland celebrate Swiss success during the Olympic Games and commiserate with failure. We are all proud of the successes in athletics, mountain biking, curling and orienteering. But we are also aware that only exceptional people with talent, diligence, goal orientation and perseverance can achieve such success. They do it out of passion, for themselves, but very often also for their team, for their country. Financing the personal career path of a talented young person to the top is a private matter in Switzerland. That’s why I definitely say YES to philanthropy in sport.
The purpose of the foundation is to provide financial support to young Swiss athletes on their way from national talent to the top. This is done according to a clearly structured system based on the classification of the respective sport-recognised FTEM support system for athletes, the individual assessment, the results and the potential of the athlete. And also according to transparent and needs-based financial criteria for each athlete. Athletes should be able to rely on the support of Schweizer Sporthilfe for as long as necessary. As soon as they have made it and can finance themselves due to their success, Sporthilfe support is discontinued. Here’s an email we received a few weeks ago from the world-class athlete Ajla del Ponte:
‘I would like to thank Schweizer Sporthilfe for all the years of working together. Since 2014, the contribution of Schweizer Sporthilfe has been a crucial factor in my sporting, professional and human development.’ Without the significant support of Sporthilfe, the athlete, who qualified for the U20 World Championships, would not have been able to continue her sporting career. And she would not have qualified for her first Olympic Games at the age of 20 and even run an Olympic final at 25. Ajla del Ponte emphasises: ‘It is the foundations that we were able to build together that brought me to a financially stable situation today. For this reason, I will forego further financial support from Sporthilfe. It’s time for the money to be used for other athletes who hopefully have the same luck as me, if not more. By the way, I would like my Tokyo bonus to be used for a three-year sponsorship for an upcoming talented athlete. Warm regards, Ajla.’
We often receive appreciative feedback such as this. For us, it shows how highly relevant our daily activities are for the athletes. And it also reflects how important the philanthropic attitude and our actions are in this part of the sporting world. These Swiss athletes are often role models for our children. Many have a high value orientation with a strong identity for their families far beyond their careers, are shapers of the economy and remain important role models in our society. Supporting them over a period of time when they need it most is meaningful and rewarding – for me, the team and all supporters of Stiftung Schweizer Sporthilfe and hopefully for all of us.