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