Why is CH ice hockey not allowed to use the Swiss cross coat of arms?

Why is CH ice hockey not allowed to use the Swiss cross coat of arms?

In news that may confuse a few people, the national ice hockey team of Switzerland has been ordered by the government to ditch their current uniforms that feature the Swiss coat of arms. Here’s why the national team are not allowed to use the national symbol.

National ice hockey team told to get rid of Swiss cross jersey

According to Blick, the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IGE) has ordered that the national ice hockey team get rid of its uniform that currently sports the national coat of arms, which features the Swiss cross. The red and black or white and black jerseys have accompanied the team to all major tournaments for many years, but as things currently stand, they will soon have to be changed.

The reason? The IGE noted that the uniform violates the Coat of Arms Protection Act, which prohibits the free use of the Swiss coat of arms by anyone other than the local, cantonal and federal governments. Blick noted that the misuse of the coat of arms could lead to fines and even prison time.

Swiss symbols under heavy copyright protection

This law formed part of the 2017 “Swissness Act” which heavily restricted the use of the Swiss flag, cross, historical sites, mountains, lakes and other national landmarks in logos and branding. Most famously, this set of laws forced Toblerone to change its iconic Matterhorn logo, after the international company moved much of its production away from Switzerland to Slovakia.

Swiss organisations outside of the government that want to use the coat of arms had to apply for an exemption by the end of 2018 - notable companies that did this include Touring Club Switzerland and Victorinox. However, Blick noted that the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation did not submit their application on time, meaning technically the team has been breaking the rules every time they have appeared since 2018.

Swiss national teams demand free use of national symbols

To solve the problem, federation CEO Patrick Bloch said that they had “been in contact with the highest authorities since 2018 and have been assured of support several times.” However, “The necessary change in the law can only be implemented through both chambers” of parliament.

For their part, a spokesperson for the Swiss Football Association - who themselves have not used the Swiss cross on their kits since the 1980s - said that they “are of the opinion that all national teams of the Swiss sports associations should be able to choose whether they want to use the flag or the coat of arms shape.” “It is difficult to understand why [the ice hockey team] is prohibited from wearing the Swiss cross,” they added.

Reforms to Swissness Acts demanded by parliament

Following the news of the IGE demands, both sides of parliament have voiced support for changing the rules. SP National Councillor Matthias Aebsicher said that “it must be a given that Swiss national teams can use the Swiss coat of arms, even before any companies.” With the support of all parties in parliament, he has now submitted a proposal to the Federal Council, calling for the acts to be reformed.

In a sign that the reform will likely be accepted, FDP Council of State member Damian Müller submitted exactly the same proposal in the higher chamber. Speaking to Blick, he admitted that he first assumed the news about the ice hockey team to be a “bad joke”, calling for the law to be reformed so this “absurd interpretation” of the Coat of Arms Protection Act be consigned to the history books.

However, 20 Minuten conceded that changing the law will take years, so in the meantime, the Federal Administrative Court will rule on whether the ice hockey team is still allowed to use the symbol.

Thumb image credit: Vitalii Vitleo /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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