Slovakia is back on the Champions Hockey League map. HC Slovan Bratislava is playing in the new year of the competition thanks to the Wild Card prize. The competition visited the capital for the first time on Thursday, on the occasion, league president Martin Bowman also came to the Ondrej Nibel Ace Stadium.
The Slavs could not manage their third appearance in the competition and the first team at home, losing to Lexanda in Sweden 2:4 and have only theoretical chances to advance from the group in the competition of the Swiss Friborg and the Czech Tennik. Three rounds later, with Tinec, they have zero points, Friborg and Lexand have nine. Belasých still has a home duel with Friborg and then two matches with the Czech opponent.
We spoke with Champions League president Martin Baumann about the decision to award a wild card in the Slavic competition after Belarusian Junos Minsk had to quit, and also about his experience with Slovak clubs or his plans with the Champions League.
How do you like Bratislava in the meantime?
“It’s a great city, I’ve known it since the World Cup. It’s great that we’re here and that we have Bratislava as the best European brand in the Champions League. It’s one of the best arenas in Europe. It would be a beautiful place for the finals. There are no better places to play hockey, he raised I like it here.”
Is this one of the reasons why you gave the Slavs a wild card?
“Yes and no. When problems arose with the Belarusian team, we had to solve them very quickly. There were logistical and visa issues. We were looking for a high-profile brand as an alternative and found a club celebrating its centenary. Slovan has a long tradition and Slovakia is the country of hockey. It was from It’s easy for us to choose Slovan.”
Did you contact other Slovak clubs as well? For example, Mr. Zvolen.
“Yes, but you know, in recent years it was not ideal, the Slovak teams were not very interested in the Champions League and they also complained. We wanted to give a wild card to a team that really wanted to be part of the Champions League and trust our brand and not to a team that was not happy to compete in the past “.
What is your experience with Slovak clubs? Banská Bystrica wasn’t too excited to be in the Champions League.
“Let’s not talk about the past. But yes, they complained about certain things, like financial bonuses etc. This year, we increased our bonuses to €3.3 million. The winner will get €500,000, which is not a small amount. Yes, you can complain about Some things, but not bonuses, especially not after the last coronavirus year.”
Is there a possibility that the club from Slovakia will get a guaranteed place in the coming years?
“We have a league standings that reflects the performance of the teams. We want to have the best teams in the league. This time, the Slovak club became part of the Champions League thanks to a wild card. We will see what it will be next year.”
What are your goals for the coming years?
“My vision is very big. We have to continue to develop the whole product gradually. I would also like to have more spectators in the matches. The performance of the teams is great, there is not much better quality hockey that you can see, definitely not at the level of the league. We want to sell stadiums.”
We also want to increase club rewards to make them happier. It’s still about building a brand, we’re still a young product, but we’re headed in the right direction. It’s more than just a fight on the ice, relationships are built between clubs.
For example, Slovan went to Sweden to Leksand and to Friborg in Switzerland. Gain new knowledge and experience there, and learn from each other. This is also one of the goals.”
Are negotiations with KHL clubs ongoing?
“We have offered them Champions League often, but we do not have any interviews with them at the moment. Only time will tell what the future holds, although anything may change. Personally, I would like to welcome the KHL clubs.
But first we have to carry out our tasks, work on developing the brand, and if we succeed, maybe KHL will come and knock on our door.”
How would you like to work on brand development?
“It is important that we have a signed contract with the main sponsor until 2028. It is a huge benefit for us. With each new sponsor, we make more money and we can give it to more clubs.
If we have whole yards and the media write about us positively, the sponsors will also believe in our project and we will have more money. So it all starts here and now in this corner, where we do the interview.
I will repeat, spectators have the opportunity to see a really good hockey game, and several general managers have also told me that the shows they perform in August or September are really great. And that is our goal, to make the game of hockey in Europe better and bigger. Playing in the league against the same opponents is not good for hockey development.”
Aren’t you planning to reduce the number of teams in the Champions League and make it only the champions?
“It’s a controversial issue. Should we have more or fewer teams? You can simply limit the number of teams and just invite the champions, or make a mix like we have now.”
We still have more teams from the major leagues and only champions from smaller teams, except for the wild card. But in the future, we will probably reduce the number of teams and only have the best of them. Not next season yet, but we’ll start next. We believe that less is more, if we only have the best clubs, the quality and prestige of the competition will increase as well.”
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