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30.09.2014, 07:30
Wiederer: "Concept gives smaller nations access to the honey pot"
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: EHF Secretary General Michael Wiederer analyses the EHF Congress decision to expand the Men's EHF EURO events from 16 to 24 teams from 2020, the economic impact and what this means for the Women’s EHF EURO events
 

Wiederer: "Concept gives smaller nations access to the honey pot"

It was a busy weekend for the European Handball Federation and its member federations at the EHF Congress in Dublin on 19/20 September. With a large number of different motions being voted on, some milestones for the future of European handball have been set.

eurohandball.com talked to Wiederer in the week following the congress, asking him about his analysis and in particular his opinion on the expansion of the Men’s EHF EURO events from 16 to 24 teams.

eurohandball.com: A good week has passed since the congress. What is the EHF’s analysis of the event in Dublin?
Michael Wiederer: This has been the most packed congress in terms of motions for a number of years. It was the first congress after the elections in 2012, and it took place in a smaller handball nation – all this made up for an interesting setting. Overall, we dealt in a very professional manner with all these challenges and the Irish Olympic Handball Association did its best to be a great host.

eurohandball.com: What are the milestones that have been put in place at the congress?
Michael Wiederer: One of them was definitely awarding the EHF EURO events for 2018 and already for 2020 as well, which gives us and the organisers a lot of time to prepare and work together. With Croatia, France, Sweden, Austria, Norway and Denmark we have attractive hosts because handball in each of these nations is a powerful sport.

Another milestone was the expansion of the Men’s EHF EURO events from 16 to 24 teams now already starting in 2020. The motion to expand the tournament received 100 per cent support. I can’t think of any other motion in congress history that achieved this. The feedback we received for the project could not have been more any more positive.

As a third milestone the new structure for the younger age category European Championships also received a lot of positive feedback.

eurohandball.com: What does this expansion mean for the Men's EHF EURO events?
Michael Wiederer: We need some time in the lead-up because it's not possible to look just at the EHF EURO but you have to see the event together with the respective qualifications. And if the qualification is to be attractive, we need teams that can deliver this attractiveness.

This means that nations, that now see that they have a realistic chance to qualify, can straight away start preparing their teams. We know of some medium-sized and smaller member federations, who haven’t been part of an EHF EURO to date, that they tell their young generations, their players who are 18 today: ‘This is for you’. So we are expecting some immediate impact when it comes to the development of young players.

eurohandball.com: The Men's EHF EURO 2020 will be hosted by Sweden, Austria and Norway. What does a field of 24 teams mean for the events from 2022 onwards?
Michael Wiederer: The EHF will continue to work on the strategy for 2022. In general, it’s possible that there is only one host, but we know that there is only a very small number of member federations who can successfully host an EHF EURO with 24 teams alone, so we are looking at models with two and three hosts.

The option to have three hosts gives us the chance to involve smaller handball nations. For example, Latvia, who have one big arena, can now organise one preliminary round phase with two groups. This same is true for, another example, Luxembourg. We now have the chance to come up with an EHF EURO concept that involves strong markets combined with smaller nations that previously did not have access to the honey pot.

eurohandball.com: The number of participating nations so far will only been increased for the Men’s EHF EURO events. What is the plan for the Women’s EHF EURO events?

Michael Wiederer: There is no automatic connection between the two. We have to conduct a thorough analysis of women’s handball and based on this we can internally start discussions about the structure of the Women’s EHF EURO events.

eurohandball.com: What about the economic impact of the 'new' Men’s EHF EURO?
Michael Wiederer: For 2020 as a 16-nation event we had three nations bidding separately: Sweden, Austria and Norway, and from our point of view Sweden was the favourite among the three. Sweden were the organisers in 2002, Norway in 2008, Austria in 2010 and Sweden have the best arena concept – hence Sweden arguably would have had the best chances.

However, in the talks about 24 participating nations instead of 16 already in 2020 the Swedes did the math and came to the conclusion that it would be worthwhile for them – even though they were the favourites to host a 16-team tournament – to stage one part of the group phase, one part of the main round and the finals.

Otherwise they wouldn't have become part of the project. For Austria and Norway it seems to be worthwhile as well, but the fact that Sweden have been the project’s motor, means that we have a living project and not an artificial one. The three nations entered voluntarily, and this makes us think that it makes sense. We think that having 24 teams is economically worthwhile for the organisers as well as for the EHF when it comes to spectators and TV markets.

eurohandball.com: Two motions, one about the age limit for elections, one about gender equality, were withdrawn, but a task force shall be set up to deal with both topics. What does this mean?
Michael Wiederer: In general, it is the case that motions that deal with statutes referring to elections shall not be voted on at an election congress. Hence it is the idea to build the prerequisites for the election congress at the working congress.

Austria’s motion regarding the age limit for elections – back in 1991 the EHF started with 65, this was changed to 68 in 1994 and since there hasn’t been any change, while many other sport federations don’t have any age limit – was submitted with this background in mind.

However, such a topic needs an exact analysis because a two-third-majority is needed for its approval and you can’t just deal with it in quick fashion. Norway’s motion to improve the situation of gender equality was a symbolic one that was submitted to set the base from which the topic can be worked on further.

At the congress both federations withdrew their motions and suggested that a task force for both topics shall be set up and that an extraordinary congress in the ‘gap year’ 2015 can be organised, just dealing with the respective statutes and structure, so that the prerequisites are there for the election congress in 2016.

I consider this a positive sign by the submitting nations as well as by congress itself, that it deals with the topic and goes in this direction.

eurohandball.com: A motion that the member federations did not improve was related to an increase of competition fees by 25 per cent. What is the impact of this decision?
Michael Wiederer: This is a democratic decision. However, the member federations were made aware, that the EHF continues to invest more in various projects and distributes money to clubs and federations. At the same time the competition fees have remained unchanged while the general price index has risen by 37 per cent. I hence believe that this will be an ongoing issue.


TEXT: EHF / ts
 
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