Support on the way to the top

A financial balancing act

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.

Neces­sary support

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.

Relia­ble support

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.

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