Canada’s Exclusion from the Men’s Pan Am Championships- Commentary

As has been reported previously on our website, Canada will not be participating in the Men’s Pan Am Championship’s this June in Brazil. As the Men’s Pan Am Championships serves as the Pan Am Region qualifier for the World Championships next January in Germany this has dealt a significant blow to the Canadian program. My own personal opinion is that the PATHF should step in and resolve this situation in a timely manner.

Here’s more analysis (questions and answers) on the whole controversy:

1) Canada placed 3rd at the 2004 Men’s Pan Am Championship and qualified for the 2005 World Championships in Tunisia. Why aren’t they even participating in the 2006 Men’s Pan Am Championship?

The simple answer is that PATHF regulations have now been put in place which limits the field to the top 8 teams based on performance in the 3 previous Pan Am Championships. While Canada placed 3rd in 2004, they did not participate in the 2003 Pan Am Games or the 2002 Pan Am Championships and therefore did not receive any points for their overall composite score. A summary of the standings is contained in the last published Pan Am Newsletter from December 2004.

2) So Canada would have qualified if they had just simply showed up at either of those 2 events. They, theoretically, could have sent a junior high team and lost every match by 60 goals, but they would have picked up points for 9th place and that would have put them in the top 8. Why didn’t they do that?

According to my Podcast conversation with Canadian National Team player Alexis Bertrand, Canada made a budgetary decision based on the current experience level of their National Team. As the team was young and inexperienced, Canada decided to save money and focus on developing their team so that they would have more funding available when the team had matured and was more competitive.

3) It seems a little unusual to provide equal weight to Championship results from 4 years ago. Are there any other continental federations that have similar regulations for their championships?

To the best of my knowledge the answer is no. A review of other Federation’s Championships indicates that their championships and qualification games are organized so that all nations have an opportunity to qualify for the World Championships on the playing court. Previous year performance does play a role in terms of seeding and pre-qualification tournaments, but no other Federation considers performance from 3 and 4 years ago.

4) Why was this system put in place?

One of the concerns that had been identified is that North American teams had not previously been required to play in prequalification championships while South American teams had been required to qualify prior to Pan Am Tournaments. Although, one could argue that the 2004 North American Championship resolved that need. One of the merits of this system is that it encourages teams to participate in Pan Am events on a consistent basis. Still, I’m at a lost as to why this system was seen as an improvement over a system which allows every team an opportunity to qualify.

5) This really seems like a bad way to decide who participates in such an important tournament. Was this process approved in a secret meeting without review from all of the nations?

This system was formally approved at the PATHF Congress in São Paulo in June, 2004. I wasn’t there, but one would expect that a congress meeting would allow for an open debate as to the pros and cons of the new system. Perhaps, some nations didn’t realize what they actually were approving, but this is purely speculation on my part.

6) Are there any other shortcomings with this system that might cause concern?

Yes, there are a couple of other issues that I can identify. First, the system does not appear to adequately take into account Greenland’s ineligibility to participate in the Pan Am Games. Although it did not happen, it is quite conceivable that Greenland could have finished out of the top 8 because of this handicap. It would have been interesting to see how the PATHF would have handled this situation if it had occurred.

Secondly, Cuba is another team that would not be able to participate under this system. Despite their recent losses against Brazil, Cuba has traditionally had a very strong and competitive program. Their performance in 1995 and 1997 are the best ever for a Men’s Pan Am team and under the current World Championship’s regulations would have earned the Pan Am region an extra bid to the next World Championships. If Cuba were to decide to support their Men’s program more strongly they could potentially repeat those performances. But under this system they wouldn’t even be allowed to try and qualify.

7) What about other sports? Has anything like this happened before? How was the problem resolved?

Last year, Liverpool Football Club won the European Champion’s League title. Despite winning this title they finished 5th in England’s Championship and therefore did not receive one of England’s four Champion’s League bids. The UEFA Champion’s League Regulations did not include any provision for the defending champion to participate and England’s rules strictly required that the top 4 teams receive the bids. So, what was to be done? Would it be fair for UEFA to give England an extra bid? Would if be fair for England to take away the bid of the 4th place team and give it to Liverpool? Rules are rules- right? It wouldn’t be fair to change what had already been agreed to- right?

In this case common sense prevailed and an obvious shortcoming was fixed. The rules were changed and Liverpool was added to the tournament this year. They had to begin play in the preliminary stages, but they were indeed given an opportunity to defend their title. More info:

8 ) Well, if a rule change was done for European Club Soccer, could something similar be done for Pan Am Team Handball?

Of course, something similar could be done. It would require some scheduling adjustments, but it is certainly feasible. It would also require some leadership to recognize that an unfair situation has arisen and that it should be addressed if a forthright matter. I don’t know if the other nations have been formally asked, but I would like to think that they would easily grasp the unfairness of the situation and would support taking steps to include Canada. Certainly, any nation interested in fair play would prefer to beat Canada on the playing court rather than receive a tainted 3rd place as their ticket to the World Championships.

2 thoughts on “Canada’s Exclusion from the Men’s Pan Am Championships- Commentary

  1. If the formula is not changed – what must Canada do to get back in the mix unless another country dos not compete? I ask this because i am a propoent of the US not going to the Pan Ams and lie Canada righting the ship until the point that we can put a competitive team on the floor. Based on the "Points" system it sounds as if less is more. In other words quality doesn't matter to stay in the race.

  2. My understanding is that barring either a last minute withdrawal of one of the teams or a decision by the PATHF to alter the format, Canada will stay home. Additionally, I think the points system was a one time accommodation to determine the initial top 8 teams and that from now on the Pan Am region will use a promotion/relegation format to determine who participates in future tournaments. As such, the 7th and 8th place teams at the upcoming Pan Am Championship will drop down (from the Senior Division to a First Division). The top two teams from the First Division Championship (tentatively scheduled for November/December 2007) will then qualify for the next Senior Division championship in 2008. Not sending a team would automatically relegate the US program to the 1st Division. While the US program is not in great shape, on paper, it should be competitive enough to finish in 6th place. With Canada’s absence, a 3rd place finish, while challenging, is even realistically feasible.

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