For some time now, the Forum Club Handball (FCH), through which all the top clubs of Europe are represented, has had a fruitful collaboration with the EHF. The FCH is represented on the EHF Professional Handball Board, where also national federations, leagues and player representatives join the top EHF officials. (A similar but separate Board also exists for women’s handball). It is of course a well-known reality that the demands on the top players from their clubs, leagues and national team cause tensions and raise important issues such as the international competition calendar, the compensation for the release of players from their clubs for national team events, and the related issue of insurance.
The EHF, just like FIFA and UEFA in football, allows not just discussions but actual negotiations on these issues with the other stakeholders. By contrast, the IHF has consistently dictated the conditions for player release, compensation and insurance on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis in relation to IHF events such as World Championships. Increasingly, this authoritarian approach has led to great dissatisfaction among the representatives of leagues, clubs and players. It is not seen as an acceptable recognition of the fundamental asset that players and clubs constitute in the world of handball.
Moreover, it fits in with an attitude demonstrated by the IHF in recent attempts to revise the IHF By-Laws, which reflect the apparent desire by the IHF President to impose duties and obligations but deny rights and privileges on the part of the stakeholders in handball. The pivotal role in dealing with this problem is played by the national federations in Europe. Of course, to some extent the federations might be seen as competition for influence with the leagues and clubs, and they may therefore fail to question the obsolete IHF practices. But one would really like to believe that the national federations which, in aggregate, are the ones, who have the formal political influence on the IHF regime, should better understand that the IHF’s position is really untenable.
As an example of the absurd length to which the IHF is prepared to go in order to maintain unilateral control, it should be noted that not just does the IHF refuse to recognize and have a dialog with the FCH; in a clear attempt to ‘divide and conquer’, the IHF has announced to clubs that they must deal with the IHF on an individual basis, because otherwise they cannot even count on the compensation that the IHF arrogantly determines without any form of negotiation. In other words, clubs who would want to stick together and be represented by the FCH in any such meetings will automatically lose the right to compensation. Instead, they would have to tolerate that the IHF hand-picks a small number of national federations and clubs as participants in the meetings where the IHF decisions are conveyed.
Frankly, it is embarrassing to see such methods continue to exist in our sport and, again, it is equally disturbing to see that the national federations do not force the IHF to change its approach.