Bankrupt Servette kicked out of Super League
A Geneva court has ruled that one of Switzerland’s leading soccer clubs, Servette, is bankrupt.
The Geneva club has said it will appeal against the decision,which automatically relegates it from top-flight Swiss football.
Winner of 17 championship titles, Servette had asked the court for creditor protection to give it time to negotiate a deal to settle about SFr10 million ($8.32 million) of debt.
On Thursday, the court had delayed a decision for a further 24 hours, with club president Marc Roger, a former players' agent, saying he had the backing of a group of unnamed Syrian investors.
However, he could not give the court proof that sufficient new money would be made available.
But on Friday the club's lawyer, Alain Marti, said a group of investors had come forward. "Servette have been contacted by a group of Genevan investors who are interested in intervening to re-establish the club," he said.
Roger had previously presented Lebanese businessman Joseph Ferrayé as the man who would save the club.
"It's a mess but this scenario had been on the horizon for several weeks," commented Jacques Ducret, a Geneva football historian and author of several books about Servette.
"But it is Swiss football as a whole that is going in the wrong direction. We cannot expect to have a professional system similar to that existing in France, England or Spain."
"Swiss football must really take inspiration from the semi-professional system of Scandinavian countries if it wants to survive," he told swissinfo.
The club's difficulties began in 2001 when the French television group, Canal Plus, reduced its majority holding.
Early last year Roger took over, promising to return the club to its glory days. He authorised the buying of 21 players, including French World Cup winner Christian Karembeu.
But the necessary cash failed to materialise and, according to media reports, none of the players or backroom staff has been paid since last September.
A number have since left the club, including Karembeu, who has gone to France's Bastia.
Servette's plight could also have consequences for the 2008 European Championship, which are due to be staged by Switzerland and Austria.
The Stade de Genève stadium used by Servette is one of eight grounds earmarked to host Euro 2008 matches.
Servette, who last won the Swiss title in 1999, are the country’s third top division side to collapse in the past three years.
FC Lugano and Lausanne Sports went out of business in 2002 after being relegated on financial grounds.
The top division will now have only one club – Neuchâtel Xamax – playing outside the German-speaking area of Switzerland.
swissinfo with agencies
Servette Football Club:
Founded 115 years ago.
Won 17 championship titles.
Lifted the Swiss Cup seven times.
Played 27 times in European competitions.
Servette have debts of around SFr10 million.
A court in the western Swiss city declared Servette of Geneva bankrupt on Friday.
The club is automatically relegated to League 1 from the Super League, following in the footsteps of Lugano and Lausanne three years ago.
The financial rot at Servette began in 2001 when Canal Plus reduced its majority holding.
Neuchâtel-Xamax will be the only club from the French-language region of Switzerland remaining in the Super League. In 2001, there were five (Servette, Xamax, Sion, Lausanne and Yverdon).
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