Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (March, 17, 2018)

The latest collegiate poll is out and there’s been some slight shuffling in the rankings.  Army, despite having only played two matches (both losses to the DC Diplomats and Boston) since the last poll is still the top team in the county.

Virginia, however, has impressed enough voters to move ahead of Air Force for the 2nd place ranking.  They placed 4th in February at the Carolina Blue Cup, and have been playing competitively in the Northeast Team Handball League.  Meanwhile Air Force has not played a match since the last poll.

Illinois State maintained their 4th place position.  They’ve added 2 wins in the Windy City Series and placed 3rd at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH.  Moving into a tie for 5th place were Army’s 2nd team and North Carolina.  The Army 2nd team had a good showing at the Carolina Blue Cup where they finished 5th just behind 2nd ranked Virginia.  North Carolina’s rise to 5th is probably related to several close matches at the Carolina Blue Cup, including a 20-17 loss to tourney winner NYAC.

Ohio State dropped out of the poll, but this may be due to some voters not having the results for the Arnold Classic.  Ohio State finished 2nd in the tourney and beat 4th ranked Illinois State 21-19

2018 Pan American Beach Championships Schedule and Breakdown of USA Opponents

The 2018 Pan American Beach Championships start tomorrow in Oceanside, California.  Eight Men’s and Women’s teams will be competing and this event will also serve as qualification for the 2018 Beach Handball World Championships to be held in Kazan, Russia in July,

Schedule: Link
Note: Game times are Local Pacific Time
Thurs, Fri, Sat: CET-9 Hours
Sunday: CET-8 Hours (Daylight Savings Time Starts)

The format for both the Men’s and Women’s Tournaments will consist of group play followed by a knockout tourney.  All teams will advance to the knockout tourney, so group play will essentially be all about seeding for the knockout tourney.  And, as 4 slots will be awarded for the World Championships every team participating will have an opportunity to qualify for the World Championships in their quarterfinal match on Saturday Morning.

Breaking down the schedule further, each team will play a group match in 3 consecutive sessions (Thursday afternoon, Friday morning and Friday afternoon).   On Saturday morning the all important quarter finals will be played.  Winners and losers will then play in their respective semifinals on Saturday afternoon.  Final placing matchings will then take place on Sunday.

USA Men’s Bracket and Possible QF Opponents

The USA Men are grouped with Argentina, Mexico and Puerto Rico.  On paper, the U.S Men should win this group.  They are, after all the defending Pan American Champions.  Mexico and Puerto Rico did not participate in the 2016 Championships and Argentina placed 4th.  They should cruise to wins over Mexico and Puerto Rico and then face Argentina on Friday night for first place in the group.  Should that come to pass their likely QF foe will be either Trinidad & Tobago or Paraguay, with debutantes Trinidad & Tobago likely being the easier foe.

USA Women’s Bracket and Possible QF Opponents

The USA Women are grouped with Brazil, Argentina and Chile.  This group is no “walk in the park” for the U.S. as Brazil is one of the top teams in the world and Argentina is not far behind.  Indeed, just last summer these two teams played in the Final of the Beach Handball Tourney at the World Games.  In a Beach Handball match anything can happen, but the inexperienced U.S. Women will be hard pressed to knock off those two foes right out of the gate.  In all likelihood, the U.S. Women will meet Chile on Friday night for 3rd place in the Group.  Chile is also relatively new to the sport so one could anticipate this match being a tight one.  The loser would likely face a relatively strong Uruguay side in the QF while the winner would likely face Paraguay, a solid, but beatable team for a ticket to the World Championships


Live streaming of matches should be available on the U.S. site at this link:  USATH Live

538 Website Uses Google Trends Data to Assess Curling Interest, So I Do the Same for Handball

Google Trends data on searches for “handball” in the U.S. since 2004.

One of my favorite websites, recently posted an article that immediately got my attention:

America Loves Curling, Until it Forgets about it for Four Years:  Link

It got my attention, because I’d just written a commentary which highlighted the exact same problem for team handball.  In the 538 article, the author, Neil Payne used Google Trends data to quantify just how much America forgets curling.  Google Trends is a tool in which you can plug in different search terms and get graphs as to how much search traffic that term gets comparatively over time.  No big surprise: Curling sees a massive spike in interest every February of an Olympics year.  And, a small surprise:  Curling’s interest spike is bigger than any other winter Olympic sport.  This was measured as a comparison of Google searches in Olympic months vs non-Olympic months.

It’s an interesting use of Google data so, if you know me, I had to do some of the same analysis for handball.  (And, oh what an interesting rabbit hole it is.)

First off, I quickly discovered the semantical mine field the sport’s name has in the U.S.  Another form of handball similar to racquetball is more popular in the U.S., but Google doesn’t seem to be capable of fully distinguishing between the two.  It’s possible to enter several different terms into the Google Trends engine:

  • Handball (search term)
  • Team Handball (search term)
  • Handball (sport)
  • American Handball (sport)

Further, you can compare the relative results of each term as well as results for individual countries or world-wide data.

For starters, I looked at U.S. internet searches for “handball” since 2004.

At first glance, it followed what I expected with sharp spikes in August of Olympic years.  But, then I noticed a significant spike in November of 2009 followed by a slight bulge in the data for the following months.  At first, I thought it might be some great article on handball in the mainstream press, but then it dawned on me:  It was my old friend Thierry Henry and his infamous “hand of frog” handball in a World Cup Qualification match vs Ireland.

This bulge appears in both the “handball” and “handball (sport)” search suggesting that Google can’t tell the difference between a search for the sport of handball vs a search for a soccer related handball.  Further, if one does a comparison of searches for “Handball (sport)” vs “American Handball (sport)” one will see handball kicking American handball’s butt.

As much as I would love for this to be an accurate comparison of the two sports popularity, there’s little to suggest that it has any basis in reality.  We’re making some serious inroads, but such a disparity just can’t be accurate.  For sure, I could see handball beating wall handball in searches, but not by a factor of 100 to 1.  No, the conclusion should be that Google Trend data for “handball” in the U.S. ends up being an aggregate of handball, wall handball and soccer handballs.  What does that mean then?  Well, it means that the Olympic spikes for handball searches in the U.S., big as they are, are actually even bigger than what the data shows.  That, the baseline hovering around 10 would probably be closer to 2 or 3 if Google could figure a way to take out wall handball and soccer handballs from its data.  The 538 article highlights that Curling has the biggest spike of winter sports with a relative spike of 80 when compared to non Olympic months.  For handball the data shows a gain of only around 60, but it’s probably at least 80, if not more for the reasons described.

Handball vs Other Sports

The 538 article also compares Curling to several other winter sports.  I did several comparison of handball vs other sports and here are a few charts.

Here’s handball compared to 2 other “lesser known” Olympic Team Sports.  Both Water Polo and Field Hockey see similar jumps and both are more well known in the U.S.  Field Hockey, since it’s an NCAA Women’s sport and a more commonly played high school sport has a higher baseline with more peaks and valleys.  You can do your own comparisons, but be forewarned if you put a popular sport like basketball or volleyball into the mix, the handball line will almost entirely morph into the zero line.

I decided to make myself feel a bit better about handball by seeing how well it would do against arguably the most obscure Olympic Sport, Modern Pentathlon.  And, handball wins that battle, but again we’d probably wouldn’t win by as much without wall handball and soccer handballs padding our numbers.

Finally, what about a Handball vs Curling comparison?

What does this comparison tell us with the gigantic Curling Winter Olympic spikes and our tiny little Handball Summer Olympic spikes?  Well, it shows how you much curling benefits from being in the Winter Olympics where there are fewer sports to compete against.  Seriously, what other explanation could there possibly be for handball losing to curling so soundly?  It really makes you wonder how much handball would “blow up” if it was staged during the Winter Olympics instead of the Summer Olympics.  With the NHL players gone handball might even have gotten better ratings than the hockey competition.  And, it would be so easy to make happen.  A whole month of professional club handball is already sacrificed every year (Men- December and Women- January) so the world’s best players would be readily available.  Think the Curling venue was a happening place with the South Korean Women playing for Gold.  Imagine what the crowd would have been like for handball?  We’ve highlighted the potential of a summer/winter switch before.

2010: Link

2012: Link

But, while it would make so much sense don’t expect the IOC to give up its snow and ice requirement for Winter Olympic sports any time soon.  There will be Nigerian bob sledding teams before that ever happens.

Who Should be on the USA Team Handball Board of Directors (Part 2):  A Gospel Spreader

Who should be on the USA Team Handball Board?: A Gospel Spreader: How about a media personality that’s already fallen in love with the sport? For consideration: Bill Simmons, Scott Van Pelt and Stefan Fatsis

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.  Part One focused on candidates with wealth.  This part focuses on finding a Board Member who can help spread the good word.

The Underlying Problem to the Money Problem

In Part One of this series I stated matter of factly that USA Team Handball’s #1 problem was a lack of revenue.  While this is true statement it’s important to step back and ask why is there such a lack of revenue?  That seemingly simple question can be answered in a lot of different ways:

  • Because we have a small membership base.
  • Because we don’t have any major sponsors.
  • Because we have very limited revenue streams.
  • Because the USOC changed their grand funding philosophy towards medal winning sports.

All of those reasons for a lack of revenue are true, but I would argue that there is an underlying root problem that, if successfully addressed, will go a long way towards solving the revenue problem.

That root problem:  The Lack of Awareness; As in far too few people in the U.S. are even aware of the sport of handball.

I’ve addressed this problem in several commentaries.  These two commentaries from 2012 summarize the problem in detail:

  • Why weren’t the U.S. national teams at the London Olympics (Part 5): A lack of awareness and marketing: One in a million: The 312 real fans of team handball in the U.S.:  Link
  • Why weren’t the U.S. national teams at the London Olympics (Part 6): A lack of awareness and marketing:  The Catch-22 TV paradox:  Link

The cliff notes version:  Only about 5% of the American population even know the sport of handball exists and the lack of regular TV broadcasts really inhibits the likelihood of more Americans discovering the sport and becoming fans and players of it.

Solve the Awareness Problem and Revenue will Follow

If USA Team Handball were to successfully address this “lack of awareness” problem increases in revenue would undoubtedly follow.  This is because there would be more fans of the sport, making sponsorship more than just charitable giving.  This is because there would be more Federation members and players contributing to the membership revenue stream.  More players, in turn, would, over time, improve the player pool and the quality of our national teams.  Leading in turn to better performance on the court and more support from the USOC.  And, eventually to another revenue stream, networks paying for U.S. National Team matches.

We can debate just how much revenue will follow.  And, we can debate how long it will take for those trickle down dollars to follow.  But, there should be no debate as to the overarching interrelationship between the awareness and revenue problems.

The Awareness Problem will be Solved

I’ve written ad nauseam about this problem and the importance of regular TV broadcasts.  I’ve highlighted the problems with some of the networks that have acquired handball TV rights and the lack of emphasis U.S. Team Handball has placed on this issue.  I’ve looked longingly at how some other sports (soccer, rugby and lacrosse) have addressed and in some cases have solved their awareness problem.  And, I’ve looked at the changing landscape for sports distribution as digital web streaming continues to play an ever increasing role.  I’ve tried my best from my news/blog website to be a pied piper for this cause.

Overall, I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before this problem solves itself.  The sport of handball has a lot of challenges and handicaps, but its attractiveness as a televised sport is not one of them.  Handball is not very likely to become a top tier sport in the U.S., but it’s going to have a significant niche in the U.S. sports market.  And, due the wealth and overall population (326 million) of the U.S. such a niche is nothing to sneeze at.

It’s going to happen, sooner or later.  Even if absolutely nothing is done to address this problem it will solve itself.  But, why on Earth, shouldn’t we try to do some things to make it happen sooner?

Solving the Problem… Sooner

So, here’s where the Gospel Spreaders come in.  Every four years, like clockwork, handball in the U.S. gets a publicity blitz courtesy of the Olympics.  Print reporters, bloggers, TV and radio personalities get their first opportunity to see the sport and they fall in love with it.  They write odes to the sport, devote entire radio and TV segments to it and inevitably they discuss why the U.S. isn’t any good at such an American looking sport.  And, they come up with plenty of “interesting” conceptual ideas as to how the U.S. could become a world handball power. Their discussions while well intentioned and often entertaining are usually superficial and don’t fully appreciate how professional the sport is in Europe.  (Sorry, Lebron and a few other NBA players aren’t going to take handball gold at the Olympics anytime soon.)

And, like clockwork, after the Olympics are over the short lived interest in handball also recedes from consciousness until 4 years later there is another Olympics and the American handball cicadas come back out.

Here’s a greatest hits of some of the pieces that have been written over the years

  • 2008: Sean Gregory:  Hey, America, What About Handball?: Link
  • 2009: Stefan Fatsis: Team Handball Has It All, Except an American Interest: Link
  • 2012: Bill Simmons: The London Chronicles, Vol. 2: Handball! (Handball?) Handball!:  Link
  • 2016: Adam Kilgore: U.S. athletes run fast, jump high, throw hard — why are we so bad at handball?: Link

Nice stories, but, what if the U.S. could get one of those new handball converts to stay fully engaged with the sport?  To not disappear and instead use his media savvy to strategically keep the sport in the limelight.  To successfully lobby a quality TV network and/or some new media digital options to continue broadcasting handball with matches from Europe, U.S. National Team and domestic competitions.  In short, help craft and implement a plan to move the sport forward in the consciousness of the U.S.

While that board director would primarily address the awareness problem he/she would also get involved with other aspects of Federation operations.  And, while some might pooh-pooh the thought of having a media person on the board by virtue of their years of experiencing observing other sports they may very well have some insights and suggestions that are worth considering.

And, of course, that would be the pitch:  You’ve shown that you’re a big fan of this great sport.  We need your help in promoting this sport so that others will discover it.  We need your help in transforming it from an interesting curiosity every 4 years into a mainstream niche sport.  If we can do that our national teams can only get better.  Would you like to play a role in this turnaround?  Will you do this for your country?

Candidates for Gospel Spreader

Bill Simmons: For a number of reasons, Bill Simmons, is at the top of my list.  His article from London, as well as a short segment on his HBO TV show during the Rio Games, shows his affinity to the sport.  He’s also got a huge following with his BS Podcast, The Ringer website and 6M Twitter followers.  And, at the moment, he’s unaffiliated and essentially his own boss.  He could devote a few hours a week to handball and actually try to put some of his whimsical analysis on how “to make handball great again in America” into action.  Why one could even envision it as a thinking man’s documentary/reality TV show or podcast.  A real life laboratory taking place over several years and culminating with the 2016 Olympics

Scott Van Pelt:  During the 2012 Olympics, probably no media personality got more engaged with the sport of handball than ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.  Entire nation wide radio segments devoted to Team Handball.  Absolutely unprecedented.  He even had somebody make him a USA Team Handball T-Shirt so he could wear it on the Radio/TV simulcast.   In the 6 years since his profile has increased and he’s arguably the most prominent sports anchor on America’s top sports network.  But, I haven’t heard a lick about handball from him since that brief shining moment 6 years ago.  Still, he’s someone to consider, especially if it could be coordinated with an IHF and/or EHF rights deal with ESPN

Stefan Fatsis:  No one has been more engaged in spreading the handball gospel than Stefan Fatsis, a reporter who has written for the Wall St Journal and the New York Times and has been an occasional correspondent on National Public Radio.  He wrote his first handball ode at the 2004 Olympics where he memorably asked French Coach Claude Onesta why the U.S. isn’t very good at handball. Onesta’s response: “As far as I am concerned, there are a lot of games at which the United States does not excel.”  He’s continued to write about the sport every time he gets a chance and routinely drops a handball reference on the weekly sports podcast, Hang Up and Listen.  Even did a podcast with me back in 2012 to get fired up for the Olympics.  In short, when it comes to handball he walks the walk and talks the talk.  His profile is nowhere near a Bill Simmons or a Scott Van Pelt, but maybe he’d try harder because he’d be more committed.

Others?:  I’m sure there’s no shortage of would be media personalities that could be considered.  Feel free to chime in with additional suggestions on the Team Handball News Facebook or Twitter pages.

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.


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

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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

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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, 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

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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.