Have you been watching all the great Champions League matches this weekend? 

Have you been watching all the great Champions League matches this weekend?  I know I have.  Yesterday I watched Paris SG take on Flensburg live and then this morning I watched Barca-Plock and the Match of the Week Zagreb-Nantes.  I really like Nantes’ style of play.  Later on today, I’m going to watch Vardar vs Szeged and then see if Rhein Neckar can get their act together vs Kristianstad.

What?  You haven’t been watching?  I guess there’s curling action from the Olympics if you’re so inclined…

You know, I used to be like you.  Afraid of some shaky download from a debatable website.  Until I did a little research and signed up for a trial subscription with Nord VPN.  Hey, I can’t guarantee you that Nord VPN will solve all your handball viewing problems, but I will unequivocally state, that I am personally a very, very happy camper with my Nord VPN subscription.  With a free trial and plans starting as low as $3.29/month you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

Who Should be on the USA Team Handball Board of Directors (Part 1):  Billionaires and Millionaires

Who should be on the USA Team Handball Board?: How about this 1978 Empire State Games bronze medalist, player/coach, Bob Rich?

In the coming year as many as 7 new directors will be elected/selected to serve on the USA Team Handball Board of Directors.  This series of commentaries will highlight some traits, skills and backgrounds that might be a good fit.  And, what the heck, even identify a few candidates by name.  This first part will focus on candidates with the ability to contribute financial support and the expertise that comes along with it.

The Need

Anybody who follows team handball in the U.S. knows that the number one challenge the sport faces in this country is a distinct lack of revenue.  How big a need is it?  Consider this.  The most recent Form 990 tax disclosure form for USA Team Handball lists total yearly revenue as $347,825.  That’s not anywhere near the revenue that’s needed to run a sports federation in the U.S.  It’s a shoestring of a shoestring operation and it means that the U.S. can’t even pay to send its national teams to international competition let alone fund an austere residency program.  And, you can pretty much forget about starting any significant initiatives that might expand youth and collegiate program development.  Even salaries can’t be paid as the last Board Meeting Minutes highlight that the CEO forgave back pay and will likely take a salary cut.

This is why it’s often talked about finding Board Directors that can financially contribute to USA Team Handball.  This includes personal contributions as well as the capacity to solicit friends and business connections.  The most prominent example of this is former Board President, Dieter Esch who reportedly provided contributions in the mid 6 figures from 2008-2010.  Former Board President Harvey Schiller also made significant personal contributions and reportedly worked his connections as best he could to solicit more support for the Federation.  Other Board Members, including current Interim Board President, Bob Djokovich ($11,555 recently) have made contributions to help keep operations afloat.

Why Not Go Bigger?

But, maybe the need is so significant that USA Team Handball needs to think bigger.   Millionaires are nice, but billionaires are where it’s at.  Or, maybe perhaps 6 figure millionaires.  Individuals with the wherewithal and connections to provide an injection of around $2M/year for the next several years.  Maybe this is just really wishful thinking, but then again maybe not.

There’s a solid pitch that just might be bought by the right wealthy individual who likes sports and relishes a challenge.  Someone perhaps who’s thinking about spending 10’s or even 100’s of millions of dollars for a professional sports franchise.  That pitch goes like this:

Why not spend a smaller amount transforming a USA National team from a perennial loser into a world power?  Instead of spending millions of dollars on salaries for a handful of athletes why not spend millions of dollars on youth athletes, collegiate athletes, and a few professionals that make 5 figure salaries, not 7 and 8 figure salaries?  And, this is not just about you opening your wallet and writing a big check.  We need your experience, knowledge and skills to help build a plan to make it happen.  Can you?  Will you do this for your country?  Do you want to be with us 10 years from now in Los Angeles when Team USA steps on to the Olympic podium?

Well, I’m sold on that pitch.  Too bad, I don’t have the resources to write the big check.  But, something tells me that there is somebody out there with the resources that might be so inclined.   We just need to find them, get them to listen to the pitch, and reel them in.  Easier said than done, but here are a couple of by name possibilities to consider.

Bob Rich, the Retired Billionaire Team Handball Player/Coach

Every day, courtesy of Google, I get an email with news articles referencing the word, “handball.”  It’s an eclectic mix of articles that really reminds me where my favorite sport fits in the big scheme of things.  This is because half of the articles aren’t about the sport of handball.  They are either about, “wall handball”, or more likely the latest controversial handball call in a soccer match.  (Seriously, enough about Thierry Henry, Please!)

But, occasionally, I get a random article from an unusual source.  One such article was this one from the Buffalo News:

The Quiet Billionaire: Bob Rich is Still Buffalo’s Ultimate Booster: Link

“Meh,” I thought to myself this guy probably plays “wall handball” on occasion at the gym.  But, instead I was surprised to find out that this “quiet billionaire” actually played and coached a team handball squad at the 1978 Empire State Games.  The Empire State Games is kind of an Olympics for New York State and actually introduced quite a few people to the sport of handball back in the 1970s and 80s.  And, Bob Rich was one of those people.  In fact, a little internet searching dug up the fact that he’s quite enamored with the sport.

So much so, that he devoted an entire chapter to team handball in his book, “The Right Angle: Tales of A Sporting life.”  The chapter highlights his discovery of the sport, his efforts to put together a team from scratch in the Buffalo area, and his surprisingly good memory recalling details from matches played 30+ years ago.  Even has references to USA handball legend, Laszlo Jurak, who coached the Long Island team.

Google Books:  Link

Who is Bob Rich?  He is the majority owner of Rich Products, a frozen foods company.  According to Forbes, he is the 441st  richest person in the U.S. with a net worth of $5.52 billion dollars.  In addition to dabbling in handball, he owns the Buffalo Bisons AAA baseball team and two other minor league baseball teams.  He’s also on the Board of Directors for the Cleveland Clinic.  Might I suggest he would be a good addition to the USA Team Handball Board as well.

The Cuban-Nowitzki Combo

Further down the list of richest Americans is Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban at #564 with a net worth of $3.4B.  But, Cuban is surely one of the best known billionaires initially becoming famous with his vocal antics in support of his team and now with his regular participation on the TV show, Shark Tank.  He’s also shown a penchant for supporting other sports including rugby, which he played in college.  He even has a principal owner’s stake with a proposed Professional Futsal League which could due to the court size/goals similarity of the two sports have a natural affinity with handball.

Cuban, however, is a very busy guy.  When he’s not fully engaged with his NBA franchise he’s off doing something else.  Sure, handball could be added to his large portfolio, but maybe there’s a sidekick millionaire he’s friendly with that might be a better fit.  Someone who’s currently very busy, but that come May/June of this year might have a lot of spare time on his hands.

That someone, of course, is Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest basketball players of all time who is expected to retire at the end of the NBA season.  Nowitzki, who is German, reportedly plans to split time between Germany and the U.S. and has even talked about acquiring a U.S. passport.  And, Nowitzki is very familiar with team handball since his father Jorg, was a top player in his younger days.  Could Nowitzki be convinced to take a bit of his time to be an ambassador to the sport?  To convince his former employer to help take the sport another level in the U.S.?  Why not?  It’s certainly worth asking.

Others?

Bob Rich Jr., and the Cuban-Nowitzki combo are but two possibilities.  Surely, there are others.  The net should be cast far and wide with the key selling points that financial support and a willingness to help craft a strategy to transform the sport in this country are needed.  Call me crazy, but I think such a pitch just might work.

USA Team Handball Board of Directors:  Change is Coming

USA Team Handball Board of Directors President, Dr Harvey Schiller resigns. In all likelihood, more changes to the Board are coming in the near future.

This past Thursday (1 Feb) many in the U.S. handball community got a bit of a surprise in their inbox, in the form of a resignation letter from the now former USA Team Handball (USATH) Board of Directors (BoD) President, Dr. Harvey Schiller.  Dr. Schiller, easily the highest profile Board Director USATH has ever had thanked everyone for their support and noted that he believed it was “best to now bring in new leadership including capable board members to meet the challenges ahead.”  Board Member and 1984 Olympian Bob Djokovich has stepped in as the interim Board President for the next 60 days.

The surprises, however, did not stop there as the January 18 BoD Meeting Minutes that were also provided included a lengthy section highlighting upcoming Board elections.  I like to think that I’m a pretty sharp guy, but I’ll have to admit that I struggled to decipher all of the information contained.

Fortunately, I was able to get a hold of Mike Lenard on the phone in Korea where he is supporting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  We discussed the board minutes and the existing bylaws and he was able to clarify for me the upcoming election process.  From my perspective, here are the key points:

  • The underlying issue is the conflicting language regarding BoD terms and elections in the current federation bylaws. Mike has worked on a volunteer basis to update the bylaws to address these and other issues and it is still an ongoing effort.  4 Board Member seats are past due for an election and 3 others will be due for an election in the near future.
  • There are a number of ways that this current situation could be resolved, but the crux of the matter is that 7 of the 9 board members have been serving on the board longer than 4 years, the standard term length.   (The 2 Athlete Representative positions (David Thompson and Sarah Gascon) were recently elected and their terms will not expire until 2021.)
  • Mike Lenard proposed a couple of options and the one the board decided to have him further flesh out would be to have 3 elections as soon as possible (with 2 for new terms and 1 to replace Dr Schiller for the remainder of his term) and 4 elections later this year. He is now working on more detailed procedures that will then be provided to the board for a vote to incorporate in the By-laws.
  • The near term election will be for 3 Independent Board members and the election later this year will be for 3 Independent Board Members and 2 General Membership Board Members. (The seat formerly held by Dr Schiller will be elected both in the near term and later this year.)
  • The different board positions will be clearly identified in terms of their term length. It is also desired that terms be staggered with 4 or 5 board seats having their terms expire every 2 years.
  • Each class of Board Membership has a distinctly different electorate.
    • Athlete Representatives are elected by athletes who have represented the U.S. in international competition within the last ten years. (The exact requirements for this electorate may be tweaked)
    • General Membership Board Members are elected by members in good standing with USA Team Handball. This will likely be an election later this year similar to the one that was held in 2013 which saw the election of Jennie Choi and Attila Agoston to the Board.  The current by-laws indicate that only “athlete members” can run and vote in the election for this position, but it’s been proposed that this be modified to allow any member in good standing to run for the board.
    • Independent Board Members are “elected” by the Nominating & Governance Committee. This committee has 5 members and their responsibilities also include identifying and interviewing potential board members.  While it is technically an election in reality it is more likely to be a collaborative selection process by the committee.
  • The current members of the Nominating & Governance Committee are Tom Fitzgerald (Chair), Cindy Stringer and Dennis Berkholtz. The current BoD will need to confirm these members and add two new members.

So, that’s the “nuts and bolts”, as I see it, in terms of process that USA Team Handball will be using for the upcoming Board elections.  I should emphasize, though, that nothing has been formally approved yet by the Board.  As, I hear further developments I will post them.

Current USA Team Handball Board of Directors: Link

Veszprem takes on Kiel (Which Screen Do You Prefer?)

Ljubomir Vranjes was the head coach at Flensburg for 7 years and earlier today headed back to Germany with his new team Veszprem for a key Champions League showdown with Flensburg’s former rival Kiel.

What screen do you get when you click on the link to watch?: Link


If you prefer the 1st screen click here: Nord VPN.

I can’t guarantee you that Nord VPN will solve all your handball viewing problems, but I will unequivocally state, that I am personally a very, very happy camper with my Nord VPN subscription.  With a free trial and plans starting as low as $3.29/month you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

IHF Trophy Competitions to be Hosted by USA

2017 Pan American IHF Trophy Champs. The U.S. will get to host a Zone Tournament as they seek to re-claim the title in 2019.

The IHF has awarded hosting rights to the U.S. for both Youth and Jr IHF Trophy Competitions.  The tourneys will be staged simultaneously at the new Lifezone Team Handball Academy in West Dundee, Illinois from 7-13 May.   The Lifezone Team Handball Academy is the first handball program/facility devoted primarily to youth development in the U.S.

The IHF Trophy Competitions were established by the IHF to provide developing handball nations competitive matches in a formal setting.  The U.S. has been competitive in these tournaments, particularly on the Men’s side having won both the North American region and this past spring the Pan American title.

For the 2018-2019 cycle the IHF has expanded the program to include both “Youth” and “Jr” competitions.  The Jr competition will be limited to athletes 21 or younger (born in 1998) or later, while the Youth competition will be limited to athletes 19 or younger (born in 2000) or later.  (The age requirements are intended to match the 2nd year of the competition (2019))

The zones for the competition have also changed with the U.S. now competing vs Canada, Martinique, Barbados, Dominica, Barbados and Haiti.  Based on past tournament performance the pre-tournament favorites are the U.S., Canada and Martinique as the remaining nations are relative newcomers to the sport.

The other North American Zone includes Mexico, Puerto Rico and additional Caribbean nations.  There are also 2 South American zones and a definitive qualification format has yet to be announced.  Because of the proposed split to the Pan-American Region it’s possible that the North America and South America regions will have separate championships.  If that’s the case it’s possible that 2 nations from each of the North American Zones will advance to a continental championship with the winner of that tournament advancing to the Inter-Continental Championship.

The U.S. has several players from previous campaigns that will be available, but will need to find some replacements for several athletes on the Jr team that have aged out.  Tryouts are scheduled for San Francisco, Auburn and the Chicago area.  Athletes that can’t make the scheduled tryouts, including dual citizens living abroad, can also apply to participate.  More information is available at the USA Team Handball website.

The location of these tournaments at the Lifezone Team Handball Academy in West Dundee, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) provides a great marketing and showcase opportunity for this new program.  Great credit for putting together a winning bid in a short period of time goes to the Academy’s Director, Craig Rot.

  • More information on the Lifezone Team Handball Academy: Link
  • USA Team Handball Announcement: Link
  • IHF Information on the IHF Trophy: Link

Podcast (Episode 29) New Zealand Handball Debuts at the Asian Championships

New Zealand Men’s National Team performing the traditional Haka before a match at the Asian Championships.

Earlier this month the New Zealand Men’s team played in their first major handball tournament, the 2018 Asian Men’s Championship.  Joining me to talk about handball in New Zealand was one of the team captains, Karl Fitzpatrick, and the team’s leading goal scorer, Aston Lang.

We discuss their performance at the tournament, how handball is organized in New Zealand, how they felt about playing in Asia (vice Oceania), and, of course, the Haka.  The interview took place prior to their final match vs Bangladesh, so if you want to check out how they did in this final effort the video is available below as are a couple of links to topics that were discussed.

  • New Zealand Handball Federation Website: Link
  • New Zealand Handball Federation on Facebook: Link
  • Asian Handball Championships (Wikipedia):  Link
  • Podcast on Aarhus Academy (The Handball Academy Aston attended): Link
  • Haka (Wikipedia): Link
  • Video (Full Match) (13th Place Match) New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Link
    – Fitzpatrick is #8; Lang is #24
    – The Haka can be viewed at the 5:00 minute mark
  • Video (Highlights) (13th Place Match) New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Link

This podcast episode was brought to you by Nord VPN.

Well, the European Men’s Championships were truly a tour de force for handball fans with every match readily available live and on demand.   It was truly awesome to see a couple of great handball matches almost every day for 16 days, but alas, it’s over.  Fortunately, as I discussed with ehfTV’s Tom O’Brannigan there’s more handball to watch through May with the EHF Champions League starting back up.  And, in my opinion, it’s actually the best handball in the world to watch on a regular basis.

And, the Champions league starts back up with a bang on Tuesday, 7 February, with Kiel playing hosting to Veszprem.  Will that big match up be readily available for viewing or will it be geoblocked for mysterious unknown reasons?

Honestly, I can’t say and honestly I just don’t worry about that much anymore…

And, while I can’t guarantee you that Nord VPN will solve all your handball viewing problems I will unequivocally state, that I am personally a very, very happy camper with my Nord VPN subscription.  With a free trial and plans starting as low as $3.29/month you really owe it to yourself to check it out.


If you would like to advertise on the Team Handball News Podcast contact John Ryan at john.ryan@teamhandballnews.com

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The PHF Split:  Key Aspects Meriting Further Analysis

The IHF President and PHF President shake hands in a happier moment.

Much of what has been released in the dueling official statements (PHF and IHF) is fairly straight forward, but some aspects are not so clear cut.  Some claims, to varying degrees are a bit misleading and some aspects merit further discussion and analysis.  The analysis presented here is a mix of rumor, intuition and feedback I’ve received from people in the world handball community.

Olympic Handball in Jeopardy?

In the IHF Statement a passing reference is made to the Olympics:

“The IHF President’s development plan includes many projects which shall promote the development of the sport worldwide and in Pan-America. He undertakes large endeavours in many fields to develop handball not only to maintain its position on the Olympic programme but also to pave the way for development on all levels, including World Championships and Olympic Games.”

I added the bold face, and it sure merits additional discussion.  Why would the IHF even mention the need for handball to maintain its position on the Olympic Programme?  Handball no longer part of the Olympics?  That couldn’t possibly be?  Could it?  Well, apparently somebody must be occasionally discussing that possibility otherwise it’s hard to imagine the point being made.  Certainly, one could hardly imagine the World Federations for Basketball, Athletics or Swimming making such a point.

I’ve heard rumors of handball’s place in the Olympics being in danger, but it was only a few days ago that I saw this rumor in print for the first time.  As reported by handzone.net, the French Handball Technical Director, Philippe Bana went on record as having seen IOC reports indicating that the future of handball on the Olympic Program after 2024 is in jeopardy due to the sport being too European.  And, logically what better way might there be to counteract IOC concerns then to aggressively build up handball in America, especially with the U.S. hosting in 2028.  Certainly, I would assess that this IOC threat is at least a factor, if not the biggest factor, behind this initiative.

$1,000,000 from Qatar Airways

Mentioned in both statements is the accounting for $1,000,000 in sponsorship from Qatar Airways.  The IHF letter claims that this sponsorship was obtained with the assistance of the IHF and that it’s not clear how this funding was used.  With the nation of Qatar being closely tied to the IHF for the past several years it’s certainly logical to assume that assistance from the IHF was pretty critical to securing this sponsorship.  Certainly, one might have a difficult time of rationalizing why the airline with only 3 flights to and from North and South America would seek a $1M sponsorship with a relatively minor sport if their footprint was so small in that region.  But, technically the relationship is between Qatar Airways and the PHF, so one could argue that the IHF doesn’t have any say at all in how that $1M has been sent.  On the other hand, having spoken with different handball people throughout North America, no one has volunteered as to how a portion of that $1M has been spent in their country.

PHF Nations are Unified Against the Process the IHF has Used; Less so Against the Concept of Splitting

The PHF in its official statement likes to point out how the PHF nations are standing together against IHF’s proposed splitting of the PHF Federation.  They point to the vote tally at the PHF Extraordinary Congress (25 against, 1 abstention) and at the IHF Congress (reportedly only Mexico and Costa Rica voted in favor of letting the IHF Council decide the matter.)

However, it’s been brought to my attention that at least some of the nations were primarily voting in opposition to “the process” that the IHF was using to impose the splitting of federations.  And, that to varying degrees several nations were open to “the concept” of splitting.

From my own perspective this position makes quite a bit of sense.  As, I elaborated on in this earlier commentary there are a lot of good reasons for splitting a federation that almost stretches from pole to pole.  Travel costs will decrease and done properly it will foster growth and development.  I think most nations when they review the pros and cons would likely come to the same conclusion.

But, should such a split be imposed from above?  Without constructive dialogue on how to go about in an orderly fashion?  In principle, I’m not on board with that.  It’s kind of like the UN telling a nation it would be better if the split in two.  The natural inclination is for a federation (or nation) to say, “Thanks for the suggestion.  We’ll take care of that on our own.”

Then again, it’s not clear as to whether this topic was ever proposed informally by the IHF and then summarily shot down by the PHF leadership without taking it to the PHF nations.  That the idea was dead on arrival, even if some nations might warm to the idea, especially if it came with resources.

An Olympic Slot for Both the North and the South?

There are a lot of aspects to a proposed splitting of the PHF Federation, but a bottom line factor of the split that could sway nations one way or the other will be the World Championships and Olympic qualification slots that would be offered to each federation.  The original proposal outlined last summer simply divvied up the slots that the PHF currently has.  I bemoaned a bit the North getting shortchanged, but now I’m hearing rumors of both the North and the South getting an Olympic slot.  That would certainly be a response to IOC threats to show progress with efforts de-Europeanize the sport.  Further, if its own Olympic slot is part of the deal you can bet the North nations will very quickly warm up to a split even if they aren’t fans of the process that has been used.

Is There a Personality Clash with the Two Presidents?

I’ve also heard rumors from multiple sources indicating that the IHF President (Hassan Moustafa) and the PHF President (Mario Moccia) simply have had a falling out.   These two articles at Super Handball (link 1, link 2) elaborate on that relationship, noting that some have speculated that Moccia is gunning for the IHF President job and that the split is a way of getting back and decreasing his influence.  Indeed, as the PHF notes in their Official Statement the split has the effect of removing a VP slot from Pan America on the Executive Council.  Instead the newly split federations will each have a “representative” on the Council.

Way Ahead Still Murky; Tournaments in Jeopardy

With the way ahead still murky some planned PHF tournaments are in real jeopardy.  These tournaments include the PHF Beach Handball Championship (Men and Women), scheduled for March in Oceanside, CA; a Men’s North American & Caribbean Championship (location TBD), and even the Men’s Pan American Championships, scheduled for June in Greenland.  It’s possible that these tournaments will still be staged under the auspices of the IHF, but that is still TBD.  If I get any definitive information I will post it as soon as I hear about it.

Podcast (Episode 28):  Euro 2018 Talk with Tom O’Brannigan

ehfTV’s Tom O’Brannigan joins me on the podcast to talk about the 2018 European Championships.  It’s tangents galore as we discuss the controversy around officials reviewing TV replays, red cards on facial contact, the Duvnjak injury, the merits of club vs national team competition, and what makes Nikola Karabatic the GOAT.

Sascha Staat’s commentary on the Duvnjak injury: Link


If you would like to advertise on the Team Handball News Podcast contact John Ryan at john.ryan@teamhandballnews.com

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IHF Council Splits Pan America into Two Federations; Tells PHF to Cease Operations

The PHF and IHF fire off dueling Official Statements in an escalating war of words.

The International Handball Federation (IHF) has gone forward with plans to split the Pan-American Handball Federation (PHF).  According to official statements released by both the PHF and IHF, the IHF Council meeting in Zagreb this past Sunday (January 14) voted to split the Pan American region into 2 separate Continental Federations.  Following the meeting the IHF then sent a letter to the PHF informing them of the split and telling them to cease operations.

A Pair of Official Statements Takes Each Side to Task

The PHF then issued a fiery official statement on Thursday taking IHF President Hassan Moustafa to task for attempting to destroy Pan American Handball.  Not to be outdone the IHF fired back on Friday with a statement of their own outlining how the PHF has failed to develop handball in Pan America and why the IHF is justified in its actions.

PHF Official Statement (18 January 2018): Link
IHF Official Statement (19 January 2018): Link

Legal Maneuvering

Both the PHF and IHF outline some of the “legal” aspects that support their side.  The PHF highlights notes that “the uprecedented forced division of our continental federation violates democratic and self-governance principles expressed in the very IHF statutes, as well as Swiss Law, where IHF is located.”  The PHF also notes that the PHF rejected the proposed split in a near unanimous vote at an PHF Extraordinary Congress this past October and that the IHF vote at the IHF Congress in November had only 60% (less than a 2/3 majority) vote in favor of a motion to let the IHF Council address the split issue.  Further, the PHF notes that the IHF Arbitration Commission has failed to respond in a timely manner to an appeal that was filed on November 11, 2017.  The final parting shot from the PHF:

“PATHF will seek all legal paths available to stop this outrage from Moustafa and to defend the integrity of worldwide handball from those forces from the past that make lack of transparency and manipulation their only sport.”

As one might expect the IHF takes issue with the PHF legal position.  In particular, the IHF has a different vote tally for the IHF Congressional vote (68%) based on fewer abstentions.  And, they take the PHF to task for holding the October Extraordinary PHF Congress without inviting the IHF President in violation of the IHF statutes.  Indeed, the PHF violation was submitted to the IHF Arbitration Commission for their review and recommendation to the IHF Council and Executive Committee, and this violation was the precedence used to suspend the PHF.

Repercussions:  Tournaments in Jeopardy?

The action by the IHF to immediately suspend PHF operations puts into doubt several major tournaments scheduled to take place later this year including the Men’s and Women’s Pan American Beach Handball Championships scheduled for March in Oceanside, California, the Men’s North American & Caribbean Championships (Location TBD) and the Men’s Handball Championships scheduled for June in Greenland.  As these events are qualifiers for the World Championships the IHF has indicated that they will assume organization responsibilities, but such a role in the midst of legal wrangling over splitting the PHF could be complicated.

Also, apparently lacking due to the conflict between the PHF and IHF is any orderly transition plan to go from one functioning Federation to two new Federations.  Such a transition would be somewhat complicated under ideal circumstances, but under the current situation is really difficult to plan for.  This is particularly true when you consider that many nations are caught in the uncomfortable position of choosing sides while legal aspects of the proposed split are unsettled.

Way Ahead

With the PHF indicating that they will be seeking all legal path available it seems likely that this conflict will eventually find its way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).  CAS is an independent body that handles sport related disputes.  When and how the case is settled is an open question.

In the meantime, we should expect some formal announcements as to how the upcoming PHF competitions scheduled this year will be organized, in the near future

Previous Team Handball News Commentaries Regarding the Proposed Split

  • The IHF Proposes a Pan-American Split (Part 1): The Pros and Cons: Link
  • The IHF Proposes a Pan-American Split (Part 2): The Curious Politics Behind the Proposal and a High Stakes Vote in Turkey: Link

Recent Articles on Other Sites Regarding the Split Controversy

  • Super Handball (Argentina): Link
  • Inside the Games: Link
  • Clarin (Argentina): Link

The recriminations from both sides and the elements to this proposed split warrant further analysis.  I am working on a commentary that I will publish in the near future.

Move Over Simonet, Sigurdsson is the New ESPN Sports Center Top 10 Handball King

Sigurdsson with the punch in goal vs Serbia

Last September, Montpellier’s Diego Simonet made the ESPN Sports Center Top 10 plays of the day with a nifty goal in a Champions League match vs Metalurg.  To date his goal has gotten 1.2M views on Instagram.  A nice viewership to be sure, but he’s now been eclipsed by Iceland’s Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson who’s only needed 21 hours to get 1.6M views for his 2nd chance punch in goal following a penalty shot vs Serbia at the European Championships.

Much like Simonet, Sigurdsson’s efforts has received thousands of comments along the lines of “what’s that sport”, “Is that something a PE teacher made up”, and “this should be on the Ocho” (A Dodgeball movie reference that poked fun at ESPN’s expanding family of networks).

I’m a little tired of beating the dead horse into a pulp, but what the heck, why not?  The lack of awareness the sport has in this problem isn’t just one problem among many the sport faces in this country.

IT IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM.

Fix this problem and all other problems will become easier to solve.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the thousands of comments that accompany this video.

To the EHF’s great credit every match of the ongoing Men’s European Championships are available for viewing, both live and on demand.  Further, they are high quality web streams with English language commentary.  For the dedicated handball fan it is truly a phenomenally great deal.  And, it’s 100% free.  How could I possibly complain?

Well, because the EHF and others don’t need to convince me and the other 300 or so super fans of the sport in the U.S.  They need to be laser focused on finding a way to turn that 300 into 3,000, then 30,000, then 300,000.  Seriously, 300 fans in the world’s biggest market?  How can that possibly be?  It’s a mind boggling small number for such a great sport.  And, nothing could fix that faster than decent TV exposure.

The Need to Find the Right TV Network Partner?

While a free video stream is pretty cool, potential new fans aren’t likely to accidentally type in www.ehfTV.com and get converted.  The way people watch sports is evolving, but TV is still king in 2018.  A good TV network partner can lead the potential new fan to the sport.  ESPN gave handball a freebie with exposure on its flagship show, Sports Center, but I doubt they also gave everyone a heads up on where to watch online.  (For sure they took down my post with a link to ehfTV.)  But, they sure would have if the matches were shown on one of their networks or even their online platform.  And, there likely would be more than just the occasional spectacular goal making the top 10.

For too long, not enough effort has been given by the EHF, IHF and others to find the right network.  Getting on TV in the U.S. was seen as something nice if it happened, but of minor importance.  And, then it seemed that any network would do.  How else to explain beIN Sports US, which currently has the U.S. TV rights for most of the major handball properties, but chooses not to broadcast on TV anymore.

There are, however, signs of change on the horizon.  The IHF has a new contract for the World Championships with MP&Silva so a new network could be showing that event next January.  And, the EHF is in the process of reviewing 4 bids for a mega ten year contract from 2020-2030.  I’ve been told that the U.S. market development is a big part of this review, so I’ve got some cautious optimism for the future.

Or, Maybe a TV Partner isn’t Needed?

But, then again while TV is king, maybe it won’t be much longer.  The way people watch sports is evolving at a pretty fast pace.  I, for one am pretty happy with ehfTV.  The NBC OTT platform in the 2016 Olympics was seriously awesome too.  All of the major networks have OTT platforms and reportedly ESPN is upgrading their platform to address the drop in traditional cable TV viewers.  Maybe the partner won’t be a TV partner, but a digital streaming partner.

And, maybe you don’t even need a partner?  Perhaps with the right marketing campaign a dedicated handball online streaming platform could take off its own.  Seriously, my daughters watch “Youtubers” that make millions of dollars a year.  How are those less than awesome videos discovered?  Could a combination of social media and advertisement create a stand alone platform for the word’s handball community.

The Deadest Weekend of the Year:  Couldn’t Handball Replace Ice Fishing?

In the U.S., the NFL is king and there is a 2 week gap between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl.  The weekend between those 2 events is sometimes called the deadest sports weekend of the year.  Everyone is waiting for the big game and they’re not quite ready to shift their attention to basketball.  And, often that deadest weekend coincides with either the European Championship or World Championship Final.  One might think this would be an opportunity, but sadly it hasn’t in years past.  In 2012, I did this review of what was on every available sports channel in the U.S.  Yes, depressingly the NBC Sports Network had an Ice Fishing showing on.  Ice Fishing! And, yes I’ve actually been ice fishing.  Boring to do. Mind boggling boring to watch.

Here’s hoping that next year around this time we’ll be celebrating a World Championship Final on a major U.S. Network.  It has to happen sooner or later.  I suggest sooner is the better option.

2018 Men’s Asian Handball Championships (Where to Watch)

The 2018 Men’s Asian Handball Championships will start tomorrow (Thursday, 18 January) and conclude on Sunday, 28 January.  The tournament will take place in Suwon, South Korea with 14 nations vying for 3 spots in the 2019 World Championships.  New to the competition will be Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh and it will be interesting to see how they fare.

Also of interest will be clashes between nations that to varying degrees are in some form of political conflict.  The Qatar – Saudi Arabia border has been closed for several months and those two nations will play on Saturday.  Iran has also reportedly been supporting rebel factions in Yemen so a handball clash with some of the Arab nations supporting the government might possibly prove contentious.

Key Links for Following and Hopefully Watching the Competition

A Korean contact has forwarded several links where video should be available.

  • Korean Federation Facebook Site: Link
  • Korean Federation Youtube Site:  Link
  • Naver Video:  Link (sometimes with on demand feeds)

Note:  Online automatic translation often doesn’t translate Korean fully.  I will update and add direct links to videos as they become available.

General Information Sites

  • Asian Handball Federation Website:  Link
  • Wikipedia Page:  Link

Inaugural Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (Jan 2018)

The first ever “Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll” is out and to no one’s surprise Army (West Point) is the unanimous 1st place pick by all 9 voters.  In fact, having won 11 straight national titles it’s a pretty safe bet that they would have had been ranked #1 consistently since 2006 (when they lost to North Carolina) if the poll had been in existence.  Army is 2-0-0 in collegiate matches with wins over Air Force (26-22) and Virginia (20-16).  Overall, they’ve compiled a less impressive 5-0-6 record, but those 6 losses were to clubs either ranked in the Top 5 (Open Poll including non-collegiate clubs) or teams from Canada.  Army is also currently in 2nd place in the Northeast Team Handball League.

Ranked 2nd is Air Force, which as previously mentioned had a 4 goal loss to arch rival Army and has an overall 2-4 record.  In December they placed 4th at the Texas Cup in Dallas with respectable losses to Chicago Inter and SF Cal Heat.  Nipping at Air Force’s heels is Virginia, which has a 3-0-0 collegiate record with victories over James Madison (29-12), Army’s 2nd Team (22-21) and Carolina’s 2nd Team (25-10) to go along with their loss to top ranked Army.  Virginia’s overall record is 4-1-4 and they were the top placing collegiate team (3rd) at the Fall Tar Heel Tourney.

In 4th place is Illinois St which is 4-0-0 in collegiate play with victories over Cincinnati (17-16), Ohio St (17-16), Miami (OH) 26-21, and Ohio St’s 2nd Team (19-14).  Overall, though they are 4-0-4 and suffered heavy losses to Chicago Inter and Barrington, a team actually mostly composed of high schoolers.  Rounding out the top 5 is Ohio St which with a 5-0-4 mark has played the most collegiate games.  They won their own tournament, the Buckeye Fall Classic, but had a less than stellar performance at Miami (OH) Red Hawk Tourney.

USA Club (Match Results):  Link
USA Club (Ranking and Statistical Data): Link

Team Handball News Collegiate Poll Sponsorship

Bryan Cothorn will continue to organize all the statistical data and tabulate the poll votes, but after some minor wrangling I’ve convinced him to let Team Handball News sponsor the Collegiate Ranking.  Bryan will also be doing polls for the Men’s and Women’s clubs, but I’m choosing to take a special interest in the college poll and the college game in general.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, for college sports there’s quite a bit of tradition when it comes to polling.  With hundreds of colleges playing sports in a hodge podge patchwork of conferences nationwide a national poll, for better or worse, has often been the only way to gage where teams stand.  Indeed, for college football it was actually how the National Champion was determined until 1998. (An absolutely ridiculous method that has now been partially fixed) Polls are a college tradition and I’m glad to see that team handball is joining the pantheon of college sports with its very own poll.

The other reason is that I think the college game should get more attention in emphasis than it does currently in this country.  I highlighted some of the issues surrounding the college game in these commentaries.

CHARTING A WAY FORWARD FOR USA TEAM HANDBALL: OPTION 4:  UPGRADE AND EXPAND COLLEGIATE TEAM HANDBALL
Part 1: Background: Link
Part 2: Strategies to Implement: Link

In the coming weeks I’ll be following up with some additional thoughts on ways to improve the quality of play and provide greater publicity/exposure to the college game.

2018 European Championships Odds, Analysis and Notes

France vs Norway:  A rematch of the World Championships Final on Day 1.  What a way to start the European Championships.

The 2018 European Championships start today and as usual France are the established favorites for this major tournament.  They are closely followed by hosts Croatia and Olympic Champions, Denmark.  Further down the list are Spain, defending champions Germany and World Championship runners up, Norway.

2018 European Championships Odds (Courtesy of Best Betting)

Nation Odds
France 2.25 to 1
Croatia 3 to 1
Denmark 4.25 to 1
Spain 8 to 1
Germany 9 to 1
Norway 14 to 1
Sweden 25 to 1
Slovenia 40 to 1
Hungary 50 to 1
Serbia 100 to 1
Macedonia 200 to 1
Iceland 225 to 1
Belarus 500 to 1
Czech Rep 500 to 1
Austria 1000 to 1
Montenegro 1000 to 1

Analysis

The EHF website has a nice preview article on each nation participating.
EHF “Countdown” articles on each nation: Link

The Stregspiller Website has several good interview and previews of the tournament and the chances of the top teams

Sascha Staat on Germany:  Link
Kevin Domas on France: Link
Peter Bruun’s Overall Preview:  Link

Peter Bruun’s summary is excellent and I pretty much concur with all of his analysis.  In particular, the following:

“Still, France possesses sufficient power and quality to be my top pick for winning the title.  However, much will depend on the performance of Nikola Karabatic – more so now than ever before. France with or without their charismatic leader is a very different team, and if Karabatic can’t deliver, “Les Bleus” won’t even reach the semi-finals.”

Recently, I was amused somewhat about twitter postings regarding possible MVPs and key players for the tournament.  Amused in that there wasn’t much talk about Karabatic, who I still think is the best player in the world.  (Probably, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) as well, but, that’s fodder for a longer commentary).  And, for sure, shepherding this talented, but relatively inexperienced team to a title as a 33 year old veteran would be a big legacy statement.  But, then again flaming out in the Main Round would also make a statement.

I’m a little bit less enamored with Croatia despite being the host.  As with France and Karabatic much of Croatia’s success hinges on Domagoj Duvnjak.  Reportedly, he’s back in fine form after being out for several months due to injury, but I will need to see that with my own eyes in a non-friendly match to believe it.  Perhaps they can still be willed into the semifinals as the host nation regardless, but I have my doubts.  Looking to the Main Round the would be Norway-Croatia match might be pivotal for advancement

In Groups C and D, I think Denmark and Germany are pretty clear favorites and it wouldn’t surprise me if they both end up with unblemished records, excepting of course their head to head matchup.  Spain could surprise, but I don’t think any of the other teams have the personnel to match up with them.

For the Final Four.  I’ll go with France beating Germany in one semi and Denmark beating Norway in the other.  And, then France getting revenge over Denmark in the Final.

Gotta Love the Format

Personally, I wax and wane as to whether the Preliminary/Knock out stage or Preliminary/Main Round format is better.  There’s a lot of drama in a Round of 16, but, this European Championship sure makes a strong case for the latter.  Day 1 and we’ve got a rematch of the WC Final between Norway and France.  A match that could very well put the loser on the cusp of not making the semifinals.  Wow, talk about a riveting way to start out the tourney!

EHF Stepping Up their Game on the Media Side:  Link

Well, I’ll jump the gun a bit and assume that the EHF will not have any geoblocking of the championship like 2 years ago.  Hopefully, a good assumption.  Every match should be available at ehfTV live and on demand.  Viewers in the U.S. should get their “boss key” working as pretty much every day for the next 2 weeks will have 3 or 4 matches available for viewing around Mid-day depending on your time zone.

Further, it looks like they will have a daily show with highlights and interviews which should be an outstanding way to catch up on the competition and get fired up for the upcoming matches.  They will also be live tweeting conversations and Snap Chat.