It is frustrating and disappointing to feel obliged to write yet again about a theme that I had hoped would be dead and buried. But it is now ‘strongly rumored’ that the IHF President appears to insist on enforcing his personal and absurd ideas on the refereeing in the Youth and Junior World Championships.
I am talking about his persistence about splitting up well-established referees couples from around the world and suddenly using them in ‘mixed’ couples during the most important events for them and teams.
As I have noted before, there is nothing ‘holy’ about the idea of permanent couples. Mixed couples (or trios) function in basketball. So even if the mutual familiarity and teamwork within the couple are critical for good performances of handball referees, it is theoretically possible that mixed couples could function in handball also. But, this would be dependent on a worldwide agreement to change the current system, and instead start bringing up young referees in the habit of constantly changing partners. In this way, they would be completely used to the method, if one day they were nominated to a World Championship.
However, we currently have a system under which referees around the world become used to a fixed partner, as they climb the career ladder up to the international level. This means that they know each other and trust each other completely. They have the same interpretations, and they know what to expect in each situation. Clearly this facilitates quick and accurate decision-making in hectic moments.
Moreover, in recent years, the IHF and many continental/national federations have had their top referees use headsets and wireless communication to be in constant contact with each other. This obviously depends on quick and easy verbal exchanges that would be totally undermined when two referees of different nationalities and native languages are put together.
Again, if one wanted to experiment with an approach based on mixed couples, to investigate the desirability of a complete change in the future, then they are safe events where this could be done. The reason why this is not happening is that no major handball federations are interested in the idea and that the IHF President has not had the courage to try to convince them.
But in any case it is obvious that this kind of experiment does not belong in a World Championship. On previous occasions, when the IHF President came with the same idea, the participating federations joined together and refused to accept this inappropriate experiment. One would hope that either this happens again, or that somebody can convince the President to stop the nonsense. But I am not so optimistic. The reason is that the President, as always, is sure that “he knows best” and that nobody can stop him…