The Rihs family, the owners, integrates the long-time sports director into ownership. Is Spycher going “all in” with his assets like David Degen at FC Basel?
Christoph Spycher at the Wankdorf Stadium on February 26, 2022.
Manuel Geisser / Imago
Christoph Spycher is the strong figure at the industry leader YB. Almost two years ago he rose from sports director to board of directors – more power was actually hardly possible for an official of a Swiss football club. And yet he acquires it, or: he takes it over.
On Thursday morning, the Young Boys announced that Spycher would become co-owner. It’s a development that has been planned for months. It has even been almost three years since insiders pointed out that exactly this partnership scenario was needed to keep Spycher at the club. He had previously been courted by Eintracht Frankfurt and the Swiss Football Association, for example.
In the future, the shareholders will consist of three people: the long-time owner Hans-Ueli Rihs, who once owned YB with his brother Andy, who died in 2018; from Hans-Ueli Rihs’ son Stefan and Spycher. YB does not provide any information about the exact ownership structure. Hans-Ueli Rihs remains the majority shareholder, Stefan Rihs, according to the communiqué, has a “substantial” stake, but not so much that Spycher’s share would be a mere formality.
When the Rihs brothers spoke of 50 “boxes” invested
But Spycher, the former national and Bundesliga player, is unlikely to have gone “all in” and put his assets at risk with YB – in contrast to David Degen, the co-owner of FC Basel, who was also formerly in the national team and in the Bundesliga. Degen recently said again in an interview with “CH Media”: “I invested a lot of my money. Why did I go all in so much? I still don’t know that to this day.”
What is rumored in the Degens case also applies to Spycher: Both would hardly be able to plug substantial financial holes. But Spycher itself has ensured that such problems should hardly occur today or tomorrow. Under his leadership, YB has become a machine that works not only in terms of sport but also financially. At the end of 2022, YB had recorded equity of almost 45 million francs. Thanks to transfer and Champions League income, this contribution should have grown by 20 to 30 million by the end of the year, and will soon be joined by the proceeds from the sale of the young central defender Aurèle Amenda. On Wednesday, YB announced that Amenda was moving to Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer; In this case, a transfer fee of at least 10 million can be assumed.
In recent years, YB has repeatedly managed to absorb significant departures – and when the team was too weak overall to become champions, the club managed not to fall apart. YB is a long way from difficult years with upheavals and crashes, from September 19, 2016, when Andy and Hans-Ueli Rihs exceptionally appeared in front of the media after days of chaos with various farewells at management level (Fredy Bickel, Alain Kappeler, Urs Siegenthaler), announced an austerity course and talked about the “50 boxes” that they had invested in YB so far.
Just a few days later, YB announced Spycher’s promotion from talent manager to sports director. Even back then, Spycher started with an impressive home power, and he said: “I set the condition that I could work in peace. We stipulated that the board of directors would not take operational action, as was perhaps the case recently.
And now: “Once YB, always YB?”
That’s how it happened, YB won the championship title in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023, and it can be assumed that Spycher had “determined” what was important to him before the latest step.
For example: that he has personal freedom. Spycher, soon to be 46 years old, appreciates this increased expression of trust in him from the Rihs family, and he will continue to work in his new co-owner role as a key member of the board of directors with overall sporting responsibility. But a change, for example as sports director to a Bundesliga club, cannot be ruled out. When he is asked: “Once YB, always YB?” – he says, among other things, that it is “difficult to look far into the future”. And: “I will definitely always remain closely connected to YB in some form.”
And the signal that the Young Boys are sending in the present should not be underestimated: that they are aiming for continuity at ownership level and are not looking for a sale, especially not into an international club network into which the Grasshoppers have recently been woven.