It’s a Long, Long Way to Santiago

The Pan American Team Handball Federation (PATHF) had a Congressional Meeting in November in which a number of issues concerning Handball in the Americas were discussed. In particular the schedule, location and national participation of several upcoming tournaments were decided upon. Arguably, organizing these tournaments is the most important thing that the PATHF does as these tournaments decide ultimately who qualifies for the Olympic Games, PANAM Games, and the World Championships.

Of particular note, were a number of decisions/votes surrounding the Men’s 2nd Chance Qualification Tournament for the PANAM Games. As reported on our website, a previous PATHF Congress apparently had decided that the 4th place Central American and Caribbean Nation team would have the right to host this tournament.
THN Article: http://www.teamhandballnews.com/news.php?extend.59
Canadian Federation Newsletter: http://www.handball.ca/newsletters/77.doc

Dennis Berkholtz’s report http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=73440975&blogID=200075136&MyToken=2f477c74-a2bb-4d20-a2bc-e36c2ac09af5 from the recent Congress highlights some of the discussion that took place:

“The sites of the Pan American Second Round Qualification Games were determined by a vote of membership. There was some discussion led by Manoel Oleveria that at the past Congress the first right of refusal to host the event should go the Central. No discussion followed and a vote was taken and Puerto Rico's offer to host the games was first ignored, then defeated by vote.”

So, this description of events seems to indicate that either of the following occurred:
1) The PATHF Congress [i][b]decided[/b][/i] to give the Central region the right to host at the previous Congress, but then decided to just override that earlier decision with a new vote or….
2) The PATHF [i][b]discussed[/b][/i] giving the Central Region the right to host at the previous Congress, but didn’t really make a decision. Hence, the need for a vote on host selection.

Either of those depictions of events is, of course, unacceptable. If the Congress makes a decision it should stand by it unless there is some legitimate and compelling reason to change the decision. If recent history (Canada’s exclusion from the 2006 Championships: http://www.teamhandballnews.com/news.php?extend.75 ) is a guide, the PATHF standard for a legitimate and compelling reason to change is pretty high.

If the previous Congress, in fact, simply discussed giving the Central Region the right to host, then it should be clear to everyone involved that no decision in fact had been made. Based on the earlier Canadian report of the meeting and the fact that the PATHF President brought the topic up at this meeting it seems that there was no consensus on what had previously taken place.

The impact of this decision to put the tournament in Chile, as opposed to Puerto Rico, is huge for the nations involved. Puerto Rico has the biggest impact as they are now traveling and no longer playing at home. Venezuela and the Canada/USA loser were traveling anyway, but it’s now an extra 3,000 thousand miles and probably twice as expensive to fly to Santiago as opposed to nearby Puerto Rico. Needless to say, the benefit to Chile is obvious. They are no longer traveling and they will be playing at home. A cynical person might even simply think that this was a South American coup.

[b]Fixing the Problem[/b]
Once again, this sort of confusion and apparent lack of transparency could be cleared up with a PATHF website with the following information readily available for all:
– An official schedule of all upcoming tournaments
– Regulations for host selection, team participation and scheduling of tournaments
– Regulations for tournament procedures (seeding, format, etc)
– Minutes highlighting the key decisions of PATHF Executive Committee and Congressional Meetings

[b]Side Notes[/b]
– It also appears that the criteria for the nations being selected for the 2nd chance tournaments has changed. For the Men, Honduras has been replaced by Venezuela. For the Women, Puerto Rico has been replaced by El Salvador. Using the originally posted format Puerto Rico should have already qualified by virtue of their 3rd place Central American and Caribbean placement. Of course, the website could clear up this confusion as well.
– Seeding and the format for the upcoming Women’s Pan American Championships should be handled very transparently. As 4 teams will qualify for the World Championships the seeding and placement of teams into their respective pools is very important. In fact, serious consideration should be given to using a tournament format that ensures that 4th place is not awarded to a team by the simple luck of a fortunate draw.

The good news is that the PATHF report indicates that a website will be available soon.