Germany’s Handball Week Magazine on the American Team Handball League (ATHL)

Germany’s weekly Handball Magazine, Handball Woche recently did a story on the American Team Handball League (ATHL) proposed by Dennis Berkholtz. Here’s a translation of the article courtesy of Positroll.


[b]Will Handball return to the Atlanta Superdome? During the 1996 Olympics Handball was played in this arena seating almost 100,000.[/b]

COLOGNE: "Team Handball, the most American sport Americans don't know" – that's the name of a short video on youtube concerning "Team Handball", as Americans happen to call Olympic Handball. This phrase explains a lot about the standing and opportunities of Handball in "The Land of Unlimited Possibilities." Team handball is basically unknown in the U.S., and often gets confused with a Squash like game, where 2 or 4 players smash a small ball against a wall.

This might be about to change. At least, if people like Dennis Berkholtz get their way: He wants to establish Handball in North America. For years he laid the groundwork and has now partially succeeded. Berkholtz is the founding director of the first official professional handball league in the U.S., the American Team Handball League (ATHL).

The idea behind the ATHL is simple. The league shall start playing in summer 2009; 2010 at the latest. It is structured similarly to other professional American leagues, e.g. Major League Soccer. ATHL shall comprise 8 teams and will be divided in a north and south division. Division North shall consist of New York, Chicago, Montreal and Salt Lake City. Division South will include Miami, Houston, Atlanta and San Juan. The league will own all rights, including the teams themselves. At the moment, Berkholtz is looking for sponsors paying 8-10 mio $$ (~5-6,5 mio EUR) for the first three years. Big advantage: the games will be shown on television and can be watched online too.

"I think it's a great idea", says Frank Bohmann, director of the German Handball Bundesliga (HBL) when asked by HANDBALLWOCHE. "I'd say the concept of a 'summer league' is quite sufficient for the moment. We will support this project as much as we can". This support will definitely be necessary. Berkholtz is looking forward to it: "I imagine each of the US teams to include about seven European players. E.g. Swedes could play in Chicago, Germans in New York" said Berkholtz who took part in Olympic games as a player in 1972 (Munich) and 1976 as a coach (Montreal).

The schedule of the ATHL is supposed to look like this: During the first two years, there will be a six weeks schedule, including one week of training (matches), four weeks of group matches and one week for the finals. Each team will play eight times in it's division, with two matches taking place in a city each week end. The winners of the two divisions will then meet to play for the championship.
The project is about to get one important piece of support by France. As the French league association declared, the French League Cup will take place in Miami for the next three years [!?!]. On April 10. and 12. 2009, European top players will therefore, for the first time, fight for a national cup in Florida. "I am all for it, as it will boost the development of Handball a lot", said the French superstar Jack Richardson.

Experts consider the chances of successfully establishing professional handball in the U.S. to be quite good, as Handball contains "all the elements that we love" says the former American Football player A.C. Tellison (who also played for Frankfurt Galaxy [European Football League]). "Handball is a very physical sport, there are lots of goals and you get a good show."

Actual Handball Woche Article (German):