USA Men’s Club Rankings (1st Poll and Some Background Info)

First USA Men’s Club Poll (December 2017) (Rest of the Top 25: Link)

The first poll ranking the top men’s clubs in the U.S. has been released with the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) edging New York City (NYC) for the top spot.  NYAC’s resume so far this season consists of a 5-0-0 record and a Michael Lipov Tournament title in Chicago this past October.  NYC is also undefeated with a spotless 6-0-0 in Northeast Team Handball League play.

Rounding out the top 5 are Chicago Inter, Revol and San Francisco CalHeat.  Chicago Inter has a 16-1-1 record and is dominating play in the Midwest Team Handball League, placed 2nd to NYAC at the Michael Lipov Tourney and won the inaugural Texas Cup earlier in December.  Revol, a new side consisting mostly of current and former Residency Program players at Auburn has a 3-0-2 record from the Chicago Tourney where they took 3rd place.  Rounding out the top 5 is San Francisco Cal Heat with a 6-0-4 record, a 4th place finish in Chicago and a 2nd place finish in Texas.

Background on the Ranking Process

The bulk of the credit for this undertaking goes to Bryan Cothorn with the DC Diplomats and Northeast Team Handball League.  Bryan has compiled the results and tabulated several different ranking statistics at this website:  Link

Further, he rounded up several volunteers to review this data plus factor in their own personal observations to come up with their own individual ranking.  These individual rankings are then combined to produce the overall club ranking: Link

Background on Rankings (in General)

The concept of “rankings” may be common knowledge to many American sports fans, but as there are a fair number of expats involved with handball in the U.S. here’s a brief explanation/history as it relates to sports rankings.

First off, let’s be clear:  These rankings have no “official” bearing.  They are not endorsed by USA Team Handball and they won’t be used to select teams for the Elite National Championship bracket.  That process for selecting will card teams is defined in the rule book and those current standings are here: Link

It’s possible that these rankings could be used by some tournament organizers to seed pools, but that’s not officially defined anywhere.

As far as guidelines for the voters, much like the NCAA polls used for college sports there are no hard and fast rules.  Voters are free to weigh different factors as they see fit.  I’m one of the voters and I’ll tend to put more emphasis on key head to head results.  But, if two clubs are close to each other I’ll probably reward the club that plays in a league and practices once in awhile.  You don’t like that?  Tough. As Bobby Brown once told America over and over, “It’s my prerogative, I can do what I wanna to do

So what’s the purpose of the rankings, then?  Well, it’s simply for fun and recognition.  To acknowledge teams for their performances on the court.  Bragging rights, if you will.  To give some context to matchups that are taking place.  It may not be official per se, but it adds a little bit more to your pregame pep talk to say that you are taking on the #1 team in the nation.  And, it can really mean a lot for a newcomer team crack the top 10 after years of being just another team.

And, for sure, part of the fun are the debates that inevitably arise. The chip on their shoulder a team gets when they are somehow ranked way lower than they think they should be.  Stupid voters! How come we can’t get any respect?  East Coast bias!  NYAC shouldn’t be #1.  Those lazy mercenaries don’t even bother to play in the Northeast League any more. Chicago Inter may have 16 wins, but how many of those W’s are just beating up on weak Midwest opponents? etc, etc.

Future Considerations

We’ve already gotten some great feedback and we’re looking at adding a Women’s poll.  I’m adding a college specific poll that will place extra emphasis on college vs college results.  And, I’m also planning on adding some Wiki style pages that will make it easier for everyone to see the results of different competitions.  And, better yet, hopefully for players and coaches to enter the results themselves.

Finally, we would like to get some more balanced representation from other parts of the country so if you’re interested in voting please contact Bryan Cothorn.

 

2017 Women’s World Championships Odds (Update for the Round of 16)

Russia beat Norway 38-37 in an epic semifinal at the 2016 Olympics. We could be looking at a rematch in the Quarterfinals.

The knockout stages of the World Championships start today and the bracket certainly has some interesting matchups both in the Round of 16 and potentially in the quarter finals.  Most notably, Sweden’s surprising upset of Norway on the last day of pool play created a bottom half of the bracket which is loaded with pre-tournament favorites.  Here’s a breakdown of the 4 quadrants of the bracket (listed in parentheses is each team’s current odds courtesy of Nordicbet to win the championship).  The winner of each quadrant will advance to the Final Four.

Watch all the matches in the knockout stages on Fubo TV:  Link

Quadrant 1

Sweden 16-1
Slovenia 74-1

Germany 23-1
Denmark 16-1

Well, conspiracy theorists thinking that perhaps the hosts and the IHF wanted to give Germany a good shot at making the Final Four might have some pretty solid arguments backing their case.  This is the weakest bracket and for sure the prospect of Germany knocking off Sweden in the quarterfinals is far better than it would have been against Norway.

Quadrant 2

Hungary 20-1
France 7-1

Serbia 17-1
Montenegro 14-1

France is the favorite in this bracket, but really all four teams here have a decent shot at advancing.

Quadrant 3

Romania 14-1
Czech Republic 149-1

Japan 149-1
Netherlands 7-1

It looks as if it’s preordained for Romania and the Netherlands will battle in the quarterfinals, but then again the Netherlands had a surprising loss vs South Korea in pool play.  The Japanese are smaller than the Koreans, but even quicker so the Dutch better be ready for them.

Quadrant 4

Spain 40-1
Norway 1.3-1

Russia 4.5-1
South Korea 39-1

This quadrant could almost have been a Final Four with 3 of the top 7 pre-tournament favorites.  A likely quarterfinal match between Russia and Norway could easily have been the gold medal final.  Honestly, the way this shapes up it’s as if Norway wanted to make the knockout stages as interesting as possible for the fans back home.

Podcast (Episode 25):  Women’s World Championships: Pan American Update

Brasil comes up short vs Denmark. Can they beat Montenegro in their last pool play match and sneak into the Round of 16?

Argentinian sports journalist, Laura Agena, is in Germany following Group B and we discuss the World Championships with a focus on Pan American sides, Argentina and Brazil.  But, we can’t help but talk about the Norwegian dominance and a surprising Japanese side.   This discussion took place on Wednesday night so we are a little more than half way through Pool Play

This podcast episode was brought to you by fubo.tv.  Watch all the World Championship matches on beIN Sports thought the Fubo TV app.  Sign up for Fubo here: Link

 

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

Subscribe to the Team Handball News Podcast in iTunes: Link

Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

2017 Women’s World Championships Odds

Netherlands has been in the Finals of the past two major tournaments. Can they make it to the top rung this time?

I’m going to pass on predictions for the Women’s World Championships because I haven’t followed the women’s game very closely since last December’s European Championships.

If you’re looking for some good insight check out the Handball Hour’s podcast with Bjorn Pazen and Sascha Staat’s preview commentary at Stregspiller:  Same Old Story?

I will say, though, that if you take their commentary and cross reference it with the published odds, you’ll see that the bookmakers might be undervaluing the Netherland’s chances.

Of interest to followers of handball in Pan America, will be whether Brazil, which has stumbled a bit in pre-tournament friendlies can perform better in the actual tournament.  Meanwhile Argentina, if they can spring a surprise might just have their best opportunity in their first match vs the Czech Republic on Saturday.

 All odds courtesy of Nordic Bet

Odd to win the 2017 Women’s World Championships

Norway                1.2 to 1
Russia                   6.5 to 1
France                  7 to 1
Netherlands       11 to 1
Spain                     15 to 1
Germany             15 to 1
Romania              15 to 1
Sweden                19 to 1
Denmark             21 to 1
Brazil                     23 to 1
Hungary               24 to 1
South Korea       29 to 1
Serbia                   49 to 1
Montenegro      49 to 1
Poland                  199 to 1
Slovenia               249 to 1
Angola                  299 to 1
Czech Republic 499 to 1
Japan                    999 to 1
China                     1499 to 1
Argentina            1999 to 1
Tunisia                  2499 to 1
Paraguay             2999 to 1
Cameroon           2999 to 1

Winner of Group A
France                  11/13
Spain                     2/1
Romania              5/2
Angola                  40/1
Slovenia               40/1
Paraguay             500/1

Winner of Group B
Norway                2/9
Sweden               9/2
Hungary               15/2
Poland                  30/1
Czech Republic 30/1
Argentina            149/1

Winner of Group C
Russia                   9/14
Brazil                     29/10
Denmark             29/10
Montenegro      8/1
Japan                    249/1
Tunisia                  599/1

Winner of Group D
Netherlands       11/13
Germany             8/5
South Korea       5/1
Serbia                   13/2
Cameroon           100/1
China                     100/1

Watch the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championships on Fubo TV

USA handball fans can watch every match of the Women’s World Championships on Fubo TV

Tomorrow at 6:45 PM (CET) (12:45 PM EST in the U.S), hosts Germany will take on Cameroon in the first match of the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championships.  In the U.S., all matches can be seen live on the beIN Sports digital platform, beIN Sports Connect.

And, now even if you don’t subscribe to beIN Sport through your cable or satellite TV provider you can still access all 84 matches on beIN Sports Connect via Fubo.tv.  Yes, Fubo.tv, the premiere home for streaming soccer for the next 17 days will also be the home for streaming handball.

With a subscription to Fubo TV you can watch matches on your computer, tablet, phone or my favorite , a connected TV.  Yes, you can stream all 10 of the beIN Sports Connect channels on TV via your Roku just like you stream Netflix or Hulu.  This can be done by first adding the Fubo TV channel to your Roku and then logging in with your Fubo TV account information.  (But, don’t delay, it took me a couple of minutes to load it in and you don’t want to wait till match time.)

Fubo TV offers a free 7 day trial so it won’t cost you to see how well it works with your computer and/or TV.

Fubo TV Trial sign up: Link

(Note: An earlier version of this article indicated that Canadian residents could also watch the World Championships on beIN Sports Connect/Fubo TV, but I have since learned that only 3 beIN Sports channels are available.  It may be possible, however, to use VPN as a workaround.)

Handball Bar Stool Discussion:  Ever Wondered What a Basketball Game Would be Like if Teams had to Play a Man Down?  Or Two Men Down?  Just Like in Handball? (Well, Now We Know)

Alabama on defense with just 3 players. Nice to see the NCAA experimenting with the adoption of handball rules. What might be some other cross over possibilities?

This past weekend a pretty bizarre basketball game was played between 2 NCAA Division 1 College teams, Alabama and Minnesota.  With 13:39 remaining in the game a fight broke out on the court between the two teams and upset, the entire Alabama team left the bench to join the fray.  And, unfortunately for Alabama the penalty for leaving the bench is ejection leaving Alabama with only the 5 court players that were playing at the time of the incident.

From then on it just kept getting more bizarre as shortly thereafter Alabama’s lost 2 more players, one due to fouling out and one due to spraining an ankle.  With 10: 41 remaining in the game Alabama was down 11 points and down to 3 players.  What ensued?  Well, basketball fans got to see the Collin Sexton show as he finished with 40 points and single handedly kept Alabama in the game.  Indeed with 1:30 left Alabama actually cut the lead to 3 points!  Only to end up falling short 89-84.

The match is pretty interesting to watch and this article describes what happened in more detail and has a link to the video.  As a handball fan I watched with handball knowledge and was a little befuddled that the Minnesota coaching staff couldn’t figure out how to put a team away with a 2 man advantage.  A double team or even a triple team on Sexton (a future NBA lottery pick) probably could have done the job.  And settling for outside shots, even if uncontested, is not the best strategy either.

And, naturally it rekindled one of my favorite barstool topics regarding basketball and handball, two similar sports, but with different rules that lead to different strategies.  Remember handball’s last minute rule problem?  The silly situation that led to really unsportmanlike hard fouls to ensure that the other team couldn’t get a shot off.  It’s become a distant memory as handball adopted some basketball like penalties to make such fouls a really bad idea.

But, there are so many other possibilities for transfer between the two sports that would certainly change how handball or basketball would be played.  Highly debatable as to whether they are good ideas or not, but have another round of beers and discuss.  Here are my favorites

What if basketball adopted these handball rules?

  • On the fly substitution. Paint a couple of substitution lines on the court and see how coaches work the offense to defense player changes.  No more tall guys sitting at mid-court waiting for the buzzer to sound.  Really, what purpose does checking in at the scorer’s table serve anyway?
  • Two minute penalties. Give teams the option of taking the free throws or having the fouling team play down a man for two minutes.  All kinds of unintended consequences here, though.  Would the game become even softer as teams become more reluctant to foul.

And, what if handball adopted these basketball rules?

  • Shot Clock. Passive play has got to be one of the silliest rules ever.  Really?  Leave it up to the officials to decide whether a team is making a good faith effort to attack?  Can you imagine what basketball would be like if that was the rule instead of a shot clock?  Quit nibbling around the edges handball people and just cave in and adopt a shot clock.  But, as in basketball it’s needed for the higher levels.
  • Start and stoppage of the time clock. Of course if you adopt a shot clock, though, you’re going to have to rethink the running clock.  Otherwise, defenses will adapt their strategies to delay the offense.  Additionally, it would eliminate referee decisions as to what is deemed worthy of stopping the clock.
  • 4 quarters and more timeouts. Professional handball players bemoan the numbers of games they have to play a year, but somehow the NBA plays even more with the only big complaint being back to back games.  I realize that basketball is a softer game that’s a bit easier on the body, but the greater amount of stoppage time in an NBA game also helps.

Anyway, those are some of my favorite possibilities.  Feel free to chime in with your opinion on Facebook or at the barstool after your next match.

Team USA Olympic and World Championship Qualification Odds (Part 2):  Assessing 2024 Olympic Qualification Odds Based on Level of Investment

Projected U.S. Olympic Qualification Odds based on level of investment. Does this reality suggest a strategy that forgoes investment in the near to mid term in favor of  maximizing national team performance in 2028?

In Part 1, I highlighted the long odds USA National face in the next couple of years.  In Part 2, I project what the odds are for the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games.  I also get a little philosophical as to whether those odds suggest a re-evaluation of USA Team Handball’s near to mid- term priorities.

2024 Olympic Prospects

With under 2 years to get ready for the 2020 Olympics it should come us as no surprise to anyone with even just an inkling of handball knowledge that the U.S. Men and Women do not have a realistic chance of qualifying for those Olympics.  Perhaps, some folks don’t fully realize to the extent of just how unrealistic it is, but most people are aware that it’s not very likely to happen.

But, even if there is virtually no chance to qualify there is still an obligation to make a good faith effort to do so.  Further, one can make the case that efforts to qualify for 2020 will have the benefit of setting up a stronger and more realistic attempt to qualify in 2024.

For an Olympics qualification run that is less than 2 years away it’s fairly straight forward to assess how successful such a campaign might be.  This is because the teams that compete in those qualifying tournaments will bear a strong resemblance to the teams of today.  Sure, there will be some roster changes to both Team USA and its competition, but on the whole it’s pretty unlikely that there will be a dramatic drop off or gain in performance.

6 years out, however, is a bit more difficult to project.  Will Argentina’s Diego Simonet at age 33 still be as big of factor? Or will Argentina even be better with some promising newcomers complimenting the wily veteran?  Will the Brazilian women be as strong with less sponsorship and support then what they received in the run up the 2016 Olympics?  Could Cuba’s economy improve such that they are competing on a regular basis?

And, what of the U.S. teams?  Could the U.S. Women continue to improve with several newcomers joining the program to replace some veteran athletes due to retire?  Could the U.S. Men show steady improvement with a mix of dual citizens and top athletes learning the game at Auburn?  Or, might the U.S. teams simply tread water playing with a measure of respectability, but lacking the depth and talent needed to challenge the likes of Argentina and Brazil.  Or, could the U.S. sink even further in terms of relative competitiveness?

Projecting the 2024 Competition

I could set up a table of possibilities as I did for 2020 qualification, but doing so would be pointless.  There are simply too many variables to project out that far.  That being said, I think some top level crystal ball projections can be made in regards to our competition.

  • The Brazilian Men are poised to be very good for years to come. Multiple players in their early to mid 20’s are playing for top clubs in Europe.  Their domestic league is also respectable and they’ve fielded Jr and Youth National Teams with great depth.
  • The Argentinian Men are also solid, but lack the depth Brazil has. They’ve got Simonet, though, and if he’s playing well Argentina will continue to be a threat for a gold medal.
  • No other Men’s PHF team appears to be on a trajectory to challenge Brazil or Argentina anytime soon. Chile and Greenland have decent teams, but their lack of depth is even more pronounced than Argentina’s.
  • The Brazilian Women have a Golden Generation that is starting to age out. I doubt that their replacements will be as good, but on the whole they have tremendous depth. Brazil’s 2nd and 3rd teams could have taken silver and bronze for the last several years if they had been allowed to participate in PHF Tourneys.
  • The Argentinian Women have yet to show that they can improve to the level of Brazil. Solid technical players, but they have to find a game changing athlete that can take them to the next level.
  • No other Women’s PHF team appears to be on a trajectory to challenge Brazil, but several sides are probably capable of mounting a challenge to Argentina
  • As an aside, the Cuban Men’s and Women’s programs are a real wild card. If properly resourced they surely could contend with other 2nd tier programs and perhaps even challenge for a PANAM Games Gold Medal.

Projecting Team USA in 2024

But, what about the U.S. Men and Women in 6 years time?  Taking the court in Santiago, Chile, the likely host of the 2023 PANAM Games.  As discussed, there are a lot of variables to factor in, but there is one simple thing that can be done:  Just add 6 years to the age of every athlete in the current talent pool.  If one does this simple addition to the Sr Team rosters for the past few tournaments, you’ll reach a quick conclusion:  That there will likely be only a few hold overs between now and then.

With the U.S. Men the roster change will likely be pretty significant.   The last major Men’s competition was the 2016 Pan American Championships I would assess that perhaps 4 or 5 players from that roster will be on the team in 2023.   I would then add 1 or 2 players from the current team at Auburn and then 4 or 5 dual citizens that have shown promise in Jr Events.  There’s some overlap with those 3 groups, but all told I think 10 athletes could come from our current player pools (Sr and Jr).  And, that would mean 6 athletes that aren’t even playing or perhaps just started playing would be on a 2023 roster.

And, such a roster would have some major question marks.  The biggest one being who would be the reliable, consistent scoring threat in the backcourt?  Perhaps a 39 year old Gary Hines will still be starting at backcourt, but I’d like to think he’ll have gently been nudged into retirement by some up and coming players.  Or at best he is a veteran reserve playing key minutes a la France’s Daniel Narcisse by then.

With the U.S. Women the change will be really dramatic.  I would assess that from the 2017 Pan American Championship roster the only holdovers could very well be just 3 or 4 younger dual citizen athletes.  Perhaps there will still be a couple of U.S. based players from the 2017 roster, but they will all be 31 or older and right in that age range where “life issue” decisions related to career and family could become more pressing.   Yes, there could be as many as 11 athletes on the U.S. Women’s Team in 2023 who are not even playing handball right now.

Now at first glance, particularly to our European friends, the prospect of the U.S. National Teams qualification for the 2024 Olympics with much of the roster consisting of newcomers might seem pretty farfetched. But, it is possible to take a quality athletic talent who has never played the game before and turn them into a decent handball player in 6 years time.  Possible, but not easy.  And, not cheap either.  It requires recruiting great athletes, providing them a quality training atmosphere and relatively frequent competition opportunities for those athletes.  I’ve written ad nauseum that the program at Auburn has not provided any of those key components for the past 4 years.  Don’t get me wrong.  Those athletes and coaches are working hard and doing the best they can, but there simply has not been enough financial support to do the job properly.

Playing the percentages (or the percentage gain)

But, what if we could properly fund our National Team programs?  Would it make a difference?  Would we then have a real shot at Olympic Qualification?

Those are very important questions.  Questions that should be asked, researched, and answered by USA Team Handball.  The short answer is that, of course, it would make a difference and it surely would improve our odds of qualifying.  But, the real questions are “How much would it improve our chances?” and “Is that percentage gain in improved chances worth the investment?”

For illustrative purposes, I’ll outline 3 possibilities in terms of investment to support or National Teams over the next 6 years and assess at a top level what our chances of qualification will be:

Minimal Investment:  This is the status quo and would mean relying on dual citizens and the continued recruitment and development of athletes at Auburn under the current austere circumstances.

Modest Investment:  This would be a modest investment in the neighborhood of $500K to 1.5M/years to beef up support to the residency programs.  This investment would be used to improve the Residency Program with partial college scholarships, stipends for athletes and travel support for multiple trips/year for overseas competition.  This should improve recruiting and also improve the development outcomes for those new athletes.  Overall, this would be roughly comparable to the U.S. residency programs of the 80’s and 90’s, particularly as you get closer to the $1.5M end of the scale.

Robust Investment: This would be an investment of $1.5-3M/year and would be an all in effort to fully maximize the performance of our teams in time for the 2023 PANAM Games.   The Residency Program would be further improved with select athletes receiving full scholarships and/or salaries.  A full time recruiting director would be hired.  Top athletes would be placed overseas via training arrangements with top European clubs.  This would be an unprecedented level of support perhaps comparable to what Olympic Sports currently under the NCAA umbrella receive.

Taking those 3 possible investment scenarios into account here’s how I would assess the likelihood for USA qualification in 2024.  (You’ll see that for illustrative purposes I also include the odds for 2020 and 2028)

USA Women

 

Excepting, Brazil and to a lesser extent Argentina, the competition in Pan America is relatively weak.  This means that a modest investment if properly executed could put together the 2nd best team in Pan America fairly quickly.   The U.S. would still not be nearly as good as Brazil, but capable of pulling off a 1 in 10 upset of Brazil in a one off Gold Medal match.  If more resources are provided with a robust investment I could see that being upped to a 1 in 5 upset possibility.  However, I don’t see it going higher because 6 years, regardless of investment, is just not enough time to put together a roster of that caliber mostly from scratch.

USA Men

 

Recall from Part 1 that Olympic Qualification for the USA Men, in most scenarios would require successfully beating both Argentina and Brazil.  That’s very likely to still be true in 2024.  For our current team this is really daunting and for 2020 Olympic qualification would require winning two 50-1 upsets or a 1 in 2,500 proposition.  For 2024 I think a modest investment would improve our team such that odds of an upset would be in the neighborhood of 10-1, but again the double whammy is a real killer meaning the odds of doing it twice are still 1 in 100.  A robust investment would further improve our National Team, but as with the Women, 6 years is just not enough time to reach Argentina and Brazil’s level.  We could improve our odds for an upset to perhaps 1 in 5, but again that means performing a double upset which would be about a 4% possibility.

Significant Investment for Minimal Gain

So, if we have no further investment to beef up our residency programs we face really, really long odds.  And, if we do provide additional investment we essentially change “really, really long” to “really long”.  With the Men’s program such an investment would have almost no value.  Spend a little or spend a lot, it just won’t move the needle much. With the Women’s program there is some small value, but it’s certainly nothing to get excited about.

Bottom Line: Significant investment directed at improving our National Teams with the intent of securing a 2024 Olympic Qualification slot makes very little sense.  Even our current investment is highly questionable.

Now, if Los Angeles had been awarded the 2024 Olympic Games, the whole dynamic changes.  “Really long shot qualification” replaced with “automatic qualification”.  The discussion would then become how do we put the most competitive team possible on the court in 7 years time?  And, that would logically lead to a near term strategy with some really aggressive recruitment.  And, even I would advocate some investment in such a strategy.   But, 2024 didn’t happen.  LA got 2028 and that reality should lead to a totally different approach and strategy.

Why it All Matters

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time outlining the long odds.  And, sure as the sun comes up every day, I will get some grief along the lines of “Why are you always so negative about things?  Why always, with the glass half empty?”

My response is that I’m an analytical guy.  I’ve looked at the data and I’m sorry, there’s just a lot of reasons to be negative.  The glass isn’t half empty.  There’s barely any liquid in the glass at all. Quite frankly, if you’re all sunshine and roses about our prospects for qualification in 2020 and 2024 you’re either lacking information to understand the big picture or kidding yourself big time.

There’s a time and place for optimism.  Certainly when you’re getting dressed in the locker room against a superior opponent it’s appropriate to be optimistic.  To go out there and give it your all.  The odds be damned.  Certainly, that was my attitude in my brief and unspectacular national team career.

But, when you are trying to map out a future for the sport in this country?  Sorry, Optimism must take a back seat to reality especially when you take into account all of the shortcomings the sport in this country needs to address.  Every dollar spent, every man hour directed toward near term national team support is a dollar and man hour that could have been spent on development and the building of a player base that could actually make the U.S. competitive in 2028.

Further, while USA Team Handball’s current incoming revenue is minimal (2015 was only $348K) that should change.  Sponsorship support will increase with the lead up to the Olympics.  The IHF could even kick in with funding support.   Am I concerned that way too much of that funding will be directed towards near term National Team support?  Propping up Residency Programs that are way too austere.  That our once in a generation Olympic opportunity will be squandered?  Yeah, I’m concerned.  Big time.  And, so should you.

USA Men Go 1-2 in First Leg of Super Series

Alex Recker led Team USA in scoring this past weekend with 19 goals in 3 matches

The USA Men travelled to Quebec this past weekend and played 3 matches against Canadian teams from Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan/Manitoba.  The U.S. opened play Friday night with an easy 44-26 victory over Canada Central, a team composed of players from the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Alex Recker led the U.S. with 9 goals, while Ty Reed added 7.

On Saturday night, the U.S. took on hosts Quebec and fell short 38-31.  The U.S. was again led in scoring by Alex Recker with 7 while Chris Morgan and Michael King added 5 each.  Quebec was led in scoring by Christian Toth with 11 and Etienne Mercer with 10. and  Video of the first half is available on Youtube and the U.S. struggled on defense against Quebec’s 7 player alignment.  The half ended 17-14 in favor of Quebec and likely would have been worse except for some tellar play in Goal by Alden Mezick

On Sunday afternoon the U.S. finished the weekend series of games with a 27-22 loss to Alberta.  The U.S. was led in scoring by Sean Zimber with 8 and Michael King with 4.  Alberta was led by Tyrell Johnston with 6 goals

Results

Standings

Handball Quebec Facebook Page:  Link (source for results)

Handball Canada Summary: Link

Video: USA vs Quebec (1st half): Link

 

Podcast (Episode 24): College Potpourri

Luke Albu is investigating Pittsburgh as a location for another Residency Program.

Luke Albu is this episode’s guest and we discuss a wide range of topics including the length of the handball season, a summer pro league, weekend tourneys, a Collegiate Final Four packaged for TV and his investigation of Pittsburgh as a possible location for a new Residency Program.

Towards the end of the podcast we discussed some of the different plans and proposals that have been shared on the collaborative Google Drive:  Link

Michael Gordon’s USATH Growth through Colleges: Link

Ryan Peterson’s Handball Proposal: Link

Original Commentary Highlighting the need for planning: Link

 

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

Subscribe to the Team Handball News Podcast in iTunes: Link

Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

IHF Congress: A Likely Pan American Split along with some Fireworks

Hassan Moustafa: Re-elected for his 5th, 4 year term; He uses some of that capital to advocate for his proposal to split Pan America into 2 federation at the 2017 IHF Congress

The International Handball Federation (IHF) held their biennial Congress in Antalya, Turkey this past weekend and suffice to say there were a bit more fireworks than normal as attendees expressed their disappointment regarding elections and proposals on multiple occasions.

The Congress was live streamed on Youtube, but even though I’m an early riser here in the U.S. the 10 hours difference between Colorado and Turkey resulted in my personally missing some key items on the agenda.  I had thought that I could simply watch the Youtube video later, even referencing times at which particular discussions took place, but for some reason the video hasn’t been made available.  And, while friendly questions regarding the availability of the livestream were promptly answered early in the day on Saturday, questions regarding the absence of a livestream on Sunday as well as the link for Saturday’s video went unanswered.  Perhaps, this is just an oversight, though, and maybe video for the 2017 proceedings will be posted alongside the 2015 Congress which are still available on the IHF Youtube channel.

While one might think reporting what happened in an open forum would be simple and straightforward, I quickly found out there were a number of contradictory assessments as to what exactly transpired on several occasions.  I would chalk this up to the nuance of “parliamentary” procedures, challenges with speakers and listeners for whom English is their 2nd or even 3rd language, and yes, of course, the biases (including my own) of those watching.  What follows is what I’ve been able to glean from a handful of attendees, news reports and in some instances my own viewing of the live feed.

The IHF Proposal to Split Pan America into Two Federations: All but Approved

When I awoke Saturday morning this agenda item had already been covered, but I was able to rewind the Youtube feed backwards 2 hours to see/hear PHF President, Mario Moccia speaking.  It was in Spanish with no translation, but it was clear that he was angry and upset.  It turns out that the Congress had taken a vote on the IHF President’s proposal to split Pan America and that it had passed 102 to 24 with 6 abstentions.  According to Spanish speakers who listened to a Handball de Primera radio podcast Moccia was protesting that a vote was taken prior to any discussion on the matter, that the vote was open (not secret ballot) and that the vote was even taken at all since all of the Pan American nations were against the proposal.

Following Moccia’s protestations, IHF President Hassan Moustafa then spoke outlining the reasons for the proposal and chastised the PHF for its failure to develop the sport.  In particular, he noted that PHF’s growth from 19 to 40 nations was directly attributable to IHF efforts and not the PHF.  Further, he noted his discussions with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Los Angeles Olympic Organization Committee and that the PHF has made no efforts to develop the sport in North America.

The IHF President then indicated that the issue would be deferred to the IHF Council for a final decision.  As the IHF Council has already recommended approval of the proposal one could assume that they will approve it again.  Still to be addressed is the timeline for the eventual splitting of the Federations and the allocation of qualification slots for the World Championships and the Olympics.  Of particular interest is a report at Handball-Planet that says a “reliable source” has indicated that North America would get its own Olympic Qualification Slot.  If true, this is a significant development and it would certainly call into question any claims to PHF unity in opposition to a split.  At least I would have a hard time understanding why any North American nation would still want to be part of a combined federation where Olympic Qualification would mean travelling to South America to beat Brazil and/or Argentina.

Elections not without Controversy

First, congratulations are in order for Canadian Handball Federation President, Racquel Pedercini who was elected Chair of the Commission for Development.  This should be beneficial to North America and its efforts to further develop the sport in this region.  This vote was interesting in that it was relatively close and that the other main candidate was Mario De La Torre from Mexico.

Other elections of note include Dr Hassan Moustafa’s unopposed re-election for yet another 4 years as the IHF President. Dr Moustafa’s tenure has not been without controversy and the fact that he had no challengers really signals that he has solid support to push through his agenda and initiatives, like the proposed Pan American Federation split.

The election for the IHF 1st VP was controversial in that sitting VP, Miguel Roca won the first round of voting over Joel Delplanque of France and Ulrich Rubeli of Switzerland.  And, then according to reports he was even congratulated on stage for his victory until it was later noted that he had not received a majority and that another round of voting was required with the 2 highest vote getters.  In that 2nd vote he lost out to Delplanque 69-63 and some have voiced concern that some supporters might have left the room and not participated in the 2nd round of voting.

The Executive Council vote provided drama in that Russian candidate, Sergey Shiskarev, was not included in the voting for failing to meet the criterion of “6 years high level involvement in handball.”  While Shiskarev has clearly been involved with sports at a high level for many years it’s certainly debatable as to whether he has 6 years of involvement with handball at a high level.  I did not personally see the drama during the during the vote itself, but I did have the opportunity to witness a very contentious and awkward exchange between Shiskarev and Moustafa during the agenda item confirming the next Congress’s host.  Normally such an agenda item is a perfunctory, almost celebratory confirmation, but in this instance it was a rebuke and withdrawal of Russia’s offer to host by Shiskarevev.  The exchange was heated as Moustafa seemed somewhat surprised by the withdrawal and chastised Shiskarev for using this agenda item to address his exclusion from the election.  Further, since the meeting Shiskarev has threatened to take court action.

Both Genders on IHF Bodies and Testing of New Rules

Norway put forth a couple of motions that were easily approved.  First, IHF bodies will now be required to have members of both genders.  This seems like it should be a given, but this new rule should serve as an impetus for greater gender equity.  Additionally, proposed new rule changes will not be first tested by at least 3 national federations prior to implementation.  This should help avoid having a major tournament like the 2016 Olympics becoming the primary testing ground for a major rule change like the open goalkeeper substitution.

New TV Contract

MP&Silva was announced as the winner of the new global TV/Media rights contract and they will be responsible for selling rights to nations world-wide.  Notably, the award was made not just for 2 cycles (2019 and 2021), but for 4 cycles (2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025) meaning the MP&Silva will be the go to agency for the next 8 years.

The previous contract had been with beIN Sports and on multiple occasions they had struggled to sign deals with other networks/channels in nations that did not carry the beIN Sports network.  This resulted in no network broadcasts of the 2017 WC in Germany.  And, even in nations (e.g. USA) where beIN Sports has a network, they often chose to not broadcast any WC matches

MP&Silva will simply broker rights to networks world-wide for the IHF.  Terms of the deal were not provided.

IHF Summary of the 2017 Congress: Link

 

The IHF Proposes a Pan American Split (Part 2):  The Curious Politics Behind the Proposal and a High Stakes Vote in Turkey

The IHF President Proposal to split the Pan American Handball Federation in two and still on the agenda for the upcoming IHF Congress.  A major vote that could change handball in Pan America for decades to come.

The IHF Proposes a Pan American Split (Part 2):  The Curious Politics Behind the Proposal

In Part 1, I outlined the IHF’s proposal to split the Pan American Federation into two separate federations.  In Part 2, I look at the overall merits of the proposal, the curious politics behind it, and a looming high stakes vote at the IHF Congress in Turkey.

Not a Perfect Deal, but One that Makes Sense

As discussed in Part 1, there’s a lot of pros and cons to the IHF proposal to split the Pan American Handball Federation (PHF) in two.  Personally, I took some offense to the lack of World Championship qualification slots.  1 slot only for Youth and Jr Championships.  And, essentially half a slot for Sr. Championships.  While it may reflect the current competitive status of North American/Caribbean Handball it’s still quite a snub.  But, once I got over the snub and weighed the cost savings and the opportunity to create truly regional competitions I started to warm to the proposal.

And, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve warmed up to it.  The reality is that it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for all that travel back and forth across the equator.  All that money spent paying airlines will be roughly halved… forever.  Those costs are different for each nation, but make no mistake there’s some real big savings over time.  And, there are just too many Pan American events right now that are for all practical purposes simply South American events.  The recently completed Women’s Club Championships are a prime example:  8 clubs- all from South America.

I think the New York City Team Handball Club Men’s team is only side from the North that has ever participated in a club championship And, yes club handball is not very well developed in the North, but bet your bottom dollar, if this championship was ever staged in the North, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba would be far more likely to attend.  And, then maybe only one team from Argentina and Brazil would make the trip up north.

And, this is not likely to ever change in a Federation that spans from Greenland in the north to Tierra Del Fuego in the south.  Club Championships, Jr and Youth Championships will continue to have limited participation due to travel costs.  Only Sr Championships will be truly North/South affairs.

Whereas, if you split the federations there’s a real chance that the North will see legitimate growth in participation to all those events.  Ideally, it could turn into handball’s version of the FIFA CONCACAF.  Not the strongest Federation, but a competitive one with good participation in all events.  And, perhaps even the South will see growth with the 5 primary nations (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile) focusing on and encouraging growth in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Central America.  In theory, they could create a legitimate handball CONMEBOL.

And, I’m not even factoring in the contentious issues that roiled the Federation 10 years ago.  Major issues that were resolved with devastating impacts to Canada and Greenland.  Things have been more agreeable the past few years and it’s nice to see some championship events coming north for a change.  But, with a split?  Well, those issues would never rise to the fore again because the disagreeing nations would be in separate federations.

But, a Deal that’s Being Unanimously Rejected?

Well, while I may have warmed to the idea of two federations, the PHF nations soundly rejected the proposal at an Extraordinary Congress held on 7 October.  As stated on the PHF website:

  • Se trató la propuesta presentada por el Presidente de la IHF de dividir al Continente Americano en dos Federaciones (Norte y Sur) y la misma no contó con ninguna adhesión positiva.

Or, in Google Translate :  “The proposal presented by the President of the IHF to divide the American Continent in two Federations (North and South) was discussed and it did not have any positive adhesion.”

As to why it was rejected, no rationale has been provided.  Speculation on my part, but I would surmise that many nations are resistant to change or are concerned with qualification slots.  Regardless, while the proposal merited only one sentence, this proposal was the reason why a PHF Extraordinary Congress was held and it wasn’t just discussed, it was discussed at length.

It surely would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall of that meeting, but I’ve heard next to nothing (on or off the record) as to what was discussed.  Nobody’s talking and for something like this with major potential repercussions that is a bit surprising.  Yes, the PHF appears to have quite a bit more discipline then the leaky Trump White House.

The Curious History and Politics Behind the Proposal

What’s really curious about this proposal is that it was initiated by the IHF.  This in many respects would be sort of like the European Union proposing to Spain that it split into 2 countries, Spain and Catalonia.  As an organization it’s fairly easy to see it from the PHF perspective: “Mind your own business, would ya?  If we want to split the PHF, we’ll figure out that ourselves and then we will put forward a proposal to the IHF for consideration.”

And, what makes things curiouser and curiouser?  A similar proposal was submitted by the U.S. back in 2009 and it was rejected by the IHF.  Former USA Team Handball Board President, Dieter Esch, later voiced his displeasure with IHF President Moustafa’s lack of support to his proposed breakaway federation.  Indeed, it was a factor in Esch’s decision to step down and discontinue his generous financial support to USA Team Handball.  And, now Dr. Moustafa is taking up the mantle for a North American Federation?  And, USA Team Handball is rejecting the proposal?

It should have you scratching your head.  But, then again, USA Team Handball has entirely different leadership now and having known USA Team Handball CEO, Mike Cavanaugh, for around 30 years, he’s not one to prone to rock the boat unless it is absolutely necessary.

Additionally, as I discussed in my interview with Handball de Primera, it’s possible that some nations in the PHF were/are reluctant to speak out openly, out of fear of future repercussions should the proposal not come to fruition.  For sure, it would be awkward to attend future PHF meetings after having previously voiced support for leaving the PHF.  And, it would only be natural for future issues and decisions to be weighed negatively against the “traitor” in their midst.  Yes, often it is better to be quiet and tactical in such a situation.  But, to be honest I’ve got little insight as to what the nations are thinking and this is clearly speculation on my part.

The Way Ahead: Drama and High Stakes in Turkey?

Well, you might think that this issue is over.  After all, the PHF nations unanimously rejected the proposal.  The IHF wouldn’t force the PHF to split if they don’t want to? Right?

Well, apparently that’s not the case as the proposal is still on the agenda for upcoming IHF Congress in Antalya, Turkey on 11-12 November.   And, you can even read the proposal which in a rare moment of transparency is readily available on the IHF Congress website.  This wording is virtually identical to the IHF Council Meeting Minutes except for the omission of information regarding WC qualification slots (which I outlined in part 1).

So, assuming this proposal stays on the agenda, the IHF Congress will vote on the motion to split Pan America in two.  For passage, the motion will require a 2/3 majority.  This may seem like a steep hurdle, but President Moustafa who is running unopposed for his 5th term as IHF President generally knows how to count up the votes.  The IHF 2013 Congress had 163 attendees and the 2015 IHF Congress had 139, so one could assume that the 2017 Congress will have similar attendance.  Perhaps even more as additional nations have joined the IHF.  Further, the IHF has been known to pay airfare and hotel for developing nations to attend, which often endears support from those representatives on key votes.

If there are 160 voting members, the measure would need to have 107 voting in support to beat the 53 voting against.  And, one can do a whole lot of speculating as to where the votes might come from for either bloc.  Key questions to be asked and answered in Turkey:

  • How many nations will show up and how many are attending on the IHF’s dime?
  • How strongly will the IHF President push this motion? Will he be content to let the Congress decide or will he see its non-passage as an affront to his leadership?
  • How will the different continental federations discuss this proposal at their meetings prior to the IHF Congress? Michael Wiederer, the influential EHF President voiced his support for the proposal stating that he is in favor as it would help to strengthen handball in the economically important country of USA. How might other IHF Council members lobby their respective continents?
  • Can the PHF member nations effectively lobby other nations with the rationale that this proposal shouldn’t be forced upon a continental federation? (i.e. The message being that your continent could be next)
  • Are the PHF member nations truly united against this proposal or will some take the opportunity of a secret ballot to vote in favor?
  • And will some renegade PHF nations even go further? Actually lobbying for the proposal in private or with a wink and a nod in a semi-private discussion in the hotel lobby or at a coffee break?
  • What will USA Team Handball say or do? As this proposal is in part focused on U.S. development a few choice words in public and/or private could make a real difference.

Honestly, I don’t know the answers to any of these questions which makes the outcome all the more interesting.  In another life, as a NATO Staff Officer I attended dozens of meetings with the flags around the table.  With very few exceptions these meetings were snoozers with little doubt as what would be decided… because anything important had already been decided before the meeting.

But, this might very well indeed be the rare case where an International Meeting takes place with the outcome to a major issue in doubt.  There might even be impassioned discussion at the Congress right before the vote takes place.  Something rarely seen or heard.  And this discussion should even be available for viewing on a live web stream on the IHF Congress web page.  An unprecedented possibility that should have every handball fan in Pan America on the edge of their seat.

Yes, mark your calendars.  11 November 2017 could be the date that seals Pan America’s fate one way or the other.

Podcast:  Buckeye Classic Tourney Review and College Game Discussion with Ohio St’s Max Littman

Ohio State Team Handball

This past weekend Ohio St defeated the Columbus Armada 20-19 to win the 4th Annual Fall Buckeye Classic Tournament.  Max Littman, an Ohio St Right Winger provides a review of the tournament and then we discuss the state of the collegiate game in the U.S.

Here are some links to more information on the topics we discussed.

Ohio State’s Twitter with a few videos from the tourney: Link

Commentaries on Collegiate Handball in the U.S.

Podcast Discussion on what collegiate team handball can learn from collegiate rugby’s success: Link

 

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

Subscribe to the Team Handball News Podcast in iTunes: Link

Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

The IHF Proposes a Pan American Split (Part 1):  The Pros and Cons

The IHF is proposing to split the PHF into 2 separate federations.

This past summer I began hearing rumors of a possible split to the Pan American Handball Federation (PHF).   A couple of postings on the PHF website have indeed confirmed that the rumors are true and I’ve now seen an outline of the actual proposal.  Surprisingly, the proposal actually came from the IHF as opposed to a PHF member nation.

For reference, here’s an overview of the current PHF nations and qualification paths:  Link

Detailed Map of PHF Handball Nations: Link

The proposed IHF split would do the following:

  • Split the PHF into two separate federations: A North America and Caribbean Federation and a South America and Central America Federation.  So, unlike soccer it would be a CONCA and not a CONCACAF.
  • For Jr and Youth World Championships the North/Caribbean would receive 1 qualification slot and the South/Central would be awarded 3 slots just like Asia, Africa and Europe. The new North/Caribbean slot for the Jr WC would come at the expense of the reigning Youth Champion and the new Youth WC slot would come at the expense 2nd best continent at the preceding Youth WC.  So, in practical terms the new North/Caribbean slots would likely mean that Europe would lose 1 of their ~12 slots for Junior WC and that Africa, Asia, or South America would lose a bonus slot for the Youth WC.
  • For Sr World Championships the IHF borrows a bit from FIFA World Qualification formats and essentially gives the North/Caribbean a ½ slot and gives South/Central America 2 ½ slots. With the ½ slots being decided by a playoff between the North/Caribbean Champion and the South/Central 3rd place team.
  • For the Olympics the IHF proposal only states that “the qualification process for the Olympic Games shall be discussed later.”

The IHF listed several rationales for this proposed split to include

  • Improved organization as each Federation would be focused on serving fewer nations
  • Cost savings particularly due to smaller travel distances
  • Greater participation from nations that currently don’t have a realistic chance of making the PHF or IHF championship events
  • Opportunities for beach handball growth in the Caribbean

Assessing the Pros and Cons

There’s certainly some positive aspects to this proposal along with some shortcomings.  Here’s an assessment of the Pros and Cons

Pros:

Cost Savings:  If this proposal were to be approved there would be some significant cost savings in travel.  Here’s some back of the envelope calculations based on a sampling of flights from Atlanta to different destinations.  In broad terms travel to cities like Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires is twice as expensive as it is to go to the Caribbean, Canada or Mexico.  Around $600/person cheaper per flight.  If a team contingent is 18 and a Federation makes an average of 1.5 North to South (or vice versa) trips a year that’s $16,200 in costs that would disappear.  Right now there are about 12 active Federations in the PHF so that would be $194,400 in total savings/year.  And, if one does a simple x10 calculation that would be $1.94 million dollars over a decade. Admittedly that’s some very rough analysis, but while we could argue about the numbers, there’s no denying this would save a lot of money over the long term.  A lot of money for resourced starved nations that could then be spent on development instead of airline travel.

Greater Participation:  Directly tied to the cost savings is the possibility that more nations would participate in more events.  Somewhat established nations like the U.S., Canada and Mexico would be more likely to participate in Jr and Youth events.  Less established nations in the Caribbean and South America might see an upsurge in participation as well.

Independence Would Eliminate Issues of Fairness:  I was really pleased with recent PHF developments to award Greenland the Men’s Sr PHF Championships and the U.S. the Beach Championships.  But, I also remember some major injustices meted out by our friends in the South.  Not trivial little things either.  Canadian Handball was on the verge of a renaissance a decade ago when they qualified and participated in the 2005 WC, but due to arcane rules they weren’t even allowed to participate in WC qualification in 2006.  And, then Greenland was demoted to Associated Membership after they went to the WC in 2007.  The U.S. might very well have qualified for the 2007 PANAM Games if the 2nd chance tournament hadn’t been moved at the last minute from Puerto Rico to Chile.  Yes, these events were a decade ago, but I’ve got a long memory.  Of course, there are bound to be conflicts within any organization, but given the distances between the North and the South I suspect key decisions in the future will continue to gravitate towards a north/south split in opinion.  I also like to think the level of disagreement won’t reach the heights that it did a decade ago, but make no mistake there will continue to be contentious issues.

No Major Change to the WC Slot Status Quo:  For all practical purposes while the North is being short changed on WC slot allotment it wouldn’t result in much change to the current status quo.  In some respects it’s even better for the North as several times we’ve failed to send any team to the World Jr or Youth Championships either because we didn’t place high enough or failed to send any team at all. And, for last 5 Sr tournaments the North for the most part has missed out on the semifinals and the opportunity to play for 3rd place and the last WC slot.  (Cuba and Puerto Rican Women in 2015 being the exception).  Under this format the North champion would be guaranteed a chance to qualify for the 3rd slot.  Further this playoff could even be a marketable event.

Cons:

The Oceania Treatment: While it’s true there’s no change to the current status quo, if one looks at this proposal from a WC slot allocation perspective, the proposed North/Caribbean Federation is pretty much being treated as another Oceania.  Nothing against our friends from the Pacific, but give us a little respect will ya?  The U.S. has been in a downward cycle for the past 20 years, but with an Olympics we will surely improve.  The Greenland men knocked off Argentina at the 2016 PHF Championship.  Cuba has several pros playing in Europe and when properly resourced they can be very competitive.  This split should come with more WC slots or at the very least there should be some clear benchmarks given to the North/Caribbean Federation as to how those slots can be increased.  And, really how many European teams do we need at the World Championships?  Yes, maybe one of the performance slots should be given to the North/Caribbean champion.

Weaker Competitions:  Splitting into 2 Federations will mean that each competition will be weaker.  In particular, the teams from the North will no longer get the experience of playing the Brazilian Women and the Brazilian and Argentine Men.  While matches against those sides have recently been blowouts it’s still very beneficial for weaker nations to get a yardstick as to where they stand against top competition.  And, even the South tourney will be degraded with sides like Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay missing out on matches against peer nations like Greenland, the U.S. and Canada.

The 8 Nation Rule: Underlying possible concerns with this split is a recent IHF competition rules requirement for federations to have at least 8 nations participating in World Championship Qualification events.  While Pan America may have around 30 full and associate members, the level of participation varies dramatically.  Perhaps around a dozen nations have fairly active programs, regularly participating in Sr events and to varying degrees Jr and Youth events.  Then there are around 6 nations that are somewhat established and sporadically play in qualifying events.  And, finally there around a dozen nations in Central America and Caribbean that are really fledgling nations.  I think for some of them the IHF Trophy tournament just this past year was their very first official competition.

So what does all of this mean?  Well right now the PHF can easily meet the 8 nation rule for Sr events, but doing so relies on participation from the established nations from both the North and the South.  The South could probably meet the 8 nation requirement independently, but it would need to coax nations like Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Central America nations into participating to ensure that it’s met.  And, doing so for Jr and Youth events would be even more challenging.  The North/Caribbean Federation would have even a harder time coaxing the fledgling nations of the Caribbean to participate.  Perhaps there could be a Caribbean championship and also maybe the French Departments of Guadaloupe and Martinique could participate.  (Side note: Trinidad & Tobago is one of the fledgling nations.  Will some future USA National Team have to travel to Port of Spain to ignominiously go down in defeat in a handball WC qualifier?)

While it’s true that the shorter distances might allow greater participation both of the new Federations might find themselves short of numbers and accordingly losing their WC slots.  Perhaps the IHF will provide a grace period for growth requirements.

So there’s a rundown on the pros and cons, as I see it.  But, what about the PHF nations and the IHF as a whole.  What do they think about the proposal? In Part 2, I’ll take a closer look at the history of Pan American Handball and the politics behind this proposal.