Floorball, one of the most popular sports in Switzerland
Floorball attracts relatively little coverage from the leading media, but in Switzerland this young sport is becoming one of the most popular sports. With over 33,000 licensed players, floorball is already the second biggest team sport in the country.
Floorball is well established both in rural and urban areas in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. The major conurbations of Bern, Zurich and Chur in particular are strongholds of the sport. Floorball is somewhat less popular in western and southern Switzerland but since the Swiss Floorball Association (swiss unihockey) was founded 30 years ago, the sport has experienced steady growth there too: two teams from western Switzerland and three teams from Ticino have made it to the country's second league. The 2019 Women's World Floorball Championships will take place in Neuchâtel and are certain to make the sport better known in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
The number of licensed floorball players has grown steadily in recent years. Last season, they surpassed the 33,000 mark for the first time, making floorball Switzerland's second biggest team sport. Daniel Bareiss, president of the Swiss Floorball Association, thinks that the full potential of this sport is still far from being realised. "We need more spectator venues, more events and more social media activity to raise our visibility," affirms Bareiss.
Switzerland competes at the very top internationally
What's the secret to floorball's success? It is a very fast-paced, dynamic and exhilarating sport. The team is nothing without the individual. You need little more than a stick and a ball to play it. These advantages make the sport particularly attractive for young people: the vast majority of floorball players are between 15 and 25 years old. Another factor blowing fresh wind into the sport's sails is that Switzerland's players are among the best in the world. Switzerland often vies for medals, both in international club tournaments and national championships. The Swiss team will be competing in the Men's World Floorball Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, from 1 to 12 December. The team won the bronze medal at the last world championships in Riga, Latvia. The Swiss team are also aiming to bring home a gold or silver medal this year.
Floorball is a highly dynamic sport not only on the court but also off it, as is evident from recent developments. During the 2014–15 season, the play-off finals were transformed from a series of matches into a single super final where everything is at stake. As a result, the season ended with two finals fought by the best international players in a stadium packed to the rafters with over 7,000 spectators. The sport also made the leap into television: both the men's and the women's final are now broadcast live on television. Floorball is also drawing greater coverage from Swiss TV and radio. Last season, SRF showed one playoff match per week from the quarter-finals onwards. SRF extended its live-coverage contract by five years to allow fans to watch one playoff match per week on SRF 2. Swiss fans are now not only able to watch the world championships but also other matches played by the Swiss national team. SRF will live-stream every match played by the Swiss team at the world championships in Prague, allowing fans back in Switzerland to watch the games online. And from the quarter-finals onwards, all matches played by the Swiss team will also be broadcast live on SRF 2. The final will certainly be broadcast live.
Top league matches
Floorball matches are not only being broadcast by SRF. Floorball clubs are also helping to make the sport better known. Three years ago, Swiss floorball clubs set up their own live streaming and video platform Swiss Unihockey TV, where all Men's National League A matches are live-streamed online and free of charge.
Cup Finals, which are played every year at the end of February, are another regular highlight of the season. Four trophies are up for grabs. Whereas in Switzerland's two top leagues – the NLA and the NLP – teams made up of five players and a goalkeeper each play on a big court (known as a standard court), regional league matches are played on a small court by teams consisting of three players and a goalkeeper. Both varieties of the sport are played at the Cup Finals, which is why eight teams compete for four trophies.
What is the next big goal for the floorball community? No question about it: winning recognition for the sport as an official Olympic sport. A first step towards this goal was taken in 2017, when floorball was for the first time part of the World Games, which are widely considered to be a stepping stone to the Olympic Games. We can only hope that Switzerland's national floorball teams will soon not only be competing for medals at the Floorball World Championships but also for Olympic gold.
Further information: www.swissunihockey.ch