League chairman Heikki Hiltunen and the CEO Riku Kallioniemi answered Iltalehti’s question battery.

Heikki Hiltunen

The Annual General Meeting of Ice Hockey Championship Ltd was held on Monday. Chairman Heikki Hiltunen, what issues were on the agenda?

– Statutory matters were discussed at the Annual General Meeting. The operating result of the financial statements for this financial year was a loss of EUR 429,000, while the previous period had a profit of just over one million. The biggest thing was the missed last season. Referee fees, normally paid on playoff proceeds, were paid this time from the League’s own cashier. As a result, the League incurred more expenses than budgeted, but it does not endanger SM-League Oy’s position in any way. SM -īga Oy is still in good financial condition at the moment.

What decisions were made at the shareholders’ meeting held after the Annual General Meeting?

– We discussed how to act in the event that a club is in danger of having to interrupt the season due to factors directly related to the corona. A decision like this was made that the shareholders meeting is committed to meeting on a very fast schedule if any club announces that they would not be able to continue the series. If, in that situation, decisions are taken in respect of that or those clubs, they shall be taken by a qualified two-thirds majority.

Does the League have the opportunity to support the clubs financially?

– SM-League Oy’s balance sheet and situation are still good, but the League is not able to finance the clubs.

Riku Kallioniemi

League CEO Riku Kallioniemi, what are your top thoughts for the current season?

– This is an unusually challenging time, but fortunately we knew how to prepare for it for a long time.

How big do you see the risk that not all clubs will survive this season financially?

– I’m not speculating. We all have a hard time, but I’m not going to make such predictions.

On Monday, JYP started co-operation negotiations concerning the entire staff, the others this year. In the past, most of the clubs have gone through co-operation negotiations. Are more expected now?

– I do not speculate, but it is clear that at a time like this, such an event business is not easy.

The players’ association recalled that the clubs had entered into fixed-term employment contracts, which they could not get rid of by voluntarily suspending the season. How do you comment on this?

– We are all in exactly the same boat. It is in everyone’s interest to use all such means to ensure business continuity. It is also in the interest of the players.

So far, 29 matches have been played. In 13 of them, the number of spectators has fallen below 2,000, which is clearly below the limited capacities of the halls. What does this say?

– People have clearly been vigilant. Our clubs have been very successful in organizing safe match events and the audience has followed the guidelines in an exemplary manner. Everything has worked in an exemplary manner, so it is hoped that it will start to turn upwards from here.

If the restrictions get tougher, is it possible to play the League even without an audience? In other words, do TV and sponsorship contracts weigh so much in the horizontal cup that interrupting the season would be an even worse option?

– Interrupting the season is always a bad option, but in professional sports, the math has been done according to the audience visiting the halls. If the math changes in that respect, it is clear that then you need to be able to look at the cost as well.

Some clubs have required the audience to use a face mask in their home matches, some recommend it. Should mask compulsion be valid throughout the League?

– We have a strong recommendation, even in the smallest. Nowhere do people see such a good percentage of masks on them as in league matches. It is a great indication that the public has already taken a very good stand on this issue with this procedure.

– This is where almost the people’s movement felt. In fact, the masquerade thing went so that when it was long overdue, at the beginning of the sledge, the league clubs started to take the masquerade in the forefront. That message has been received very well. A big thank you to our audience for that.

A person in the auditorium of a match between HPK and Luko last Friday was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection. There is, of course, relief if the case does not start spreading chains of infection. The opposite would certainly be the SM league nightmare?

– We hope to be able to keep Finland running so that we also have various events and related jobs. As the disease moves to this extent, it is expected that some visitor to the event will only realize afterwards that they have become infected. In this case, the good news was, however, that the mask was on. There are also blocks in the auditoriums, or else that spaciousness is seen to work.

Home matches of Vaasa Sport have been canceled until the end of October. Sport launched a fundraising campaign aimed at virtually filling the home hall. Could such creative solutions find help in the plight of other clubs?

– This is an exceptional situation, and this requires exceptional creativity. All means have been put in place. The clubs are working extremely hard to deal with this situation.

On Monday, a new recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on a quarantine period related to the coronavirus came into force. According to it, quarantine lasts for 10 days instead of 14 days, and a mildly ill person in home care survives seven days of isolation. How was the news received in the League?

– We work well with the authorities and rely on the medical assessments made by the best experts. When there was reason to shorten it in this way, then in the event that we had a team quarantine, it would make it a little easier to follow up.

The TV production of the league was transferred to MTV, and the matches can be watched on C Morella and Telia TV. Some of the matches can be seen on MTV’s free-to-air channels. What does the TV audience’s interest in the Finnish Championship League look like?

– We have discussed this with Maikkari, and the really good news is that the League is interested. Interest in nothing has disappeared, on the contrary. As the clubs, in cooperation with the authorities and the public, take safety measures, then, of course, we hope that this great interest will begin to show up in the halls over the course of the autumn.

Is it possible that the corona-induced shift of the public from the halls of the halls to the auditoriums will remain a permanent phenomenon even after the epidemic?

– The most important thing is that the league puck is of interest to the audience. We do our best to be able to serve interested people in different contexts and in different channels. It is great news that the league matches produced by Maikkari have been actively monitored.