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03.12.2015, 15:50
Continuity is the key to success in Skjern
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FEATURE: Local patriotism plays a huge role in Skjern Handbold's ongoing success through the last 17 years
 

Continuity is the key to success in Skjern

When Skjern Handbold were promoted in the Danish handball league for the first time in history in 1998, it was not written in the stars that the club would be in the top of Danish handball without interruption for the following 17 years and play in Europe for 13 of those, including three EHF Champions League berths.

Still, this has been the case.

Already in their first season in the Danish top flight, the club from the village in the far west of Denmark won the Danish championship, and even though that triumph from the 1998-99 season is still Skjern's only Danish championship, the club has made its mark on Danish handball ever since.

This season, Skjern are in the VELUX EHF Champions League for the third time, and before the last match day in Group D, the team has already qualified for the knock-out stage, which will see two winners reach the Last 16.

The Sunday match (16:50) at home against HC Motor Zaporozhye (follow live on ehfTV.com) will therefore only be decisive for the first place in the group.

But how can a club from a town with a population of less than 8,000 – by far the smallest town represented in the Champions League at all this season – manage to stay at this high level for so long?

A strong local cohesiveness

Continuity is the key word, if you ask the club's chairman Carsten Thygesen – and he should be the right man to ask, as he has been with the club all the way from the time in the second best league.

During the years, he has had several functions, now serving as chairman.

We are in the rural west of Denmark, where you have chairmen, not presidents.

“We have a constant aim of keeping the same core of sponsors, the same core of officials and board members, the same core of volunteers and the same core of players,” explains Carsten Thygesen.

“Of course, there will always be changes, but we strive to make as few changes at a time as possible.

“One example is that our coaches usually stay for long. We have not had many head coaches during our time in the league.

“Another example can be seen in the fact that we have several players in our team who have 3-4-500 matches for us.

“For instance, this week we have extended our contract with our captain Thomas Klitgaard who will be playing his ninth season for us next season.

“As for sponsors, we are in our 23rd year with the same main sponsor,” says Thygesen.

The idea about continuity sounds sensible, of course, but how can a club in a small town like Skjern hold to sponsorships in a scale, which make handball at top level possible year after year?

“Many companies in our local area are aware, how great a brand a sports team is for a region.

“There is almost nothing that can make a town or a region visible like success in sport can.

“Skjern would never get so many hours on TV without the handball team, and this actually makes some companies pay a little more than they may actually get for their money, as they benefit from the brand we give this region.

“In fact, we have sponsors who never set foot in the arena for a handball match, but who still pay because they can see the value of the brand we give the area.

“That is what enables us to compete with cities like Holstebro, Herning and Esbjerg, who are all within 50 kilometers away, and who all have top sports teams as well. Local patriotism plays a big part, also for our many fans” concludes Carsten Thygesen.

A well organised club

As Carsten Thygesen mentioned above, team captain Thomas Klitgaard extended his contract with the club for another year – his ninth with the club - this week.

The line player, who will turn 38 next week is not in doubt what makes it appealing to him to play in Skjern.

“The club is very well organised, and furthermore, our good results in Europe from time to time give us a good reputation nationally and abroad which makes it possible to the club to go on attracting good players, and the players who come here, usually adjust really fast,” finds Thomas Klitgaard.

His words are confirmed by one of Skjern's most prominent signings ever, Bjarte Myrhol who is generally considered to be among the absolutely best line players in the world.

“Skjern is club where you feel well from the start, and the town as well as the nature around it also makes it easy to settle in,” the 33-year-old Norwegian internationally recently told ehfCL.com.

But what if we ask Carsten Thygesen to look into his crystal bowl? Will Skjern Handbold also be in the Danish top and play in Europe during the next 16-17 years?
The chairman does not hesitate when answering.

“Yes, we will. We will be in Europe two out of every three years, and we will continue to be in the top in Denmark, meaning that we will be in the race for the medals every year.

“We may not be able to go all the way and win the championship, as our financial capacity may not be big enough for that after all, but we will stay close to the top all the time,” predicts Carsten Thygesen.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
 
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