Champions League Dodges Private League Threat

On 24 May, the EHF released the following official statement concerning private league initiatives:

Courtesy of Mette from Mette’s Handball Corner: here’s the story behind the press release.

The unnamed Danish club in the EHF’s Official Statement is the Slagelse Handball Club. The “certain representative” is Slagelse Head Coach and former Danish National Team Player Anja Andersen Anja Andersen is considered to be one of the best ever Women Handball players and is also known for her outspoken and sometimes controversial antics. This past year she was suspended by the Danish Handball Federation and the EHF after apparently grabbing a referee during a match,919358&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

Andersen’s proposal called for a private league with 13 teams: Eight from Denmark and five from Europe. The league would be further divided into a Danish League and a European League with corresponding tournaments ending in a championship with the best team from each league. The league would also be totally separate from both the Danish Handball Federation and the EHF.

In principle, Andersen feels that women's handball is dying while the leaders are not doing enough to address this decline. She got the inspiration for the private league ten years ago when she visited Chicago and saw an NBA basketball game where Dennis Rodman was allowed to kick a chair in anger in front of a cheering crowd – something she has never been allowed to do without punishment. Essentially, she feels that a new, less stodgy league would allow her to show her feelings more freely.

Additionally, she also thinks the NBA structure, with the best teams in one league, higher salaries and forward looking rules is a better model. She feels that Europe should adopt the best aspects of American sports: professionalism and emotions. She has felt this for some time, but only recently felt that she had gained enough knowledge about economics, organization and strategies to make it come true.

Needless to say, the establishment, namely the Danish Handball Federation (DHF) and EHF did not welcome this proposal as it would directly conflict with the Danish League and the Champions League. As Andersen had previously successfully developed and marketed a “Dream Team” tour and established a working relationship with Danish TV3 there was also some definite legitimacy to this threat.

The key element for any new league to succeed is money and Andersen’s strategy was to secure sufficient funding via a TV contract. As Danish TV2 had an exclusive 5 year contract with the DHF, Andersen discussed the possibility of the alternative league with Danish TV3. TV3, however, also entered negotiations with TV2 (and perhaps using the alternative league as leverage) made a deal with TV2 to secure broadcast rights to 48 Danish league matches per season. Effectively, this appears to have ended the possibility of a new private league being developed in the near future.