USA Team Handball and Miami Tournament Organizers in Dispute over Sanctioning

A dispute between USA Team Handball and the organizers of the French Coupe de la Ligue Tournament may preclude the hosting of the tournament in Miami. The Coupe de la Ligue Tournament, featuring 4 of France’s top professional clubs is scheduled for April 10th and 11th at Miami’s American Airlines Arena and is easily the most significant Handball event ever to be staged in the U.S. outside of the 1984 and 1996 Olympics.

In a notice posted on it’s official website, USA Team Handball has called upon the French Professional League (Ligue National de Handball (LNH)), and it’s American partners, the American Team Handball Federation (ATHF), to formally request sanctioning of their tournament with USA Team Handball and to dissolve the ATHF. USA Team Handball has requested that the International Handball Federation (IHF) address this issue and the IHF is arranging a meeting at the upcoming World Championships in Croatia later this month with the LNH, the French National Federation and USA Handball.

The General Manager of USA Team Handball, Steve Pastorino, further elaborated on the notice via email correspondence and indicated that the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the ATHF press release indicating that the ATHF was sanctioning the event and was an organization with national and international credibility. Pastorino further noted that USA Team Handball was:

“about to announce several significant partnerships with international organizations… There are enough challenges to attract interest in handball in the USA without another organization “muddying” the sponsorship, broadcast and event landscape. We have no issues with them as a for-profit entity operating in this country; and we welcome their efforts to further the grass roots development of handball in the USA. But they cannot represent themselves as a “national” or “international” federation.”

Pastorino also indicated that USA Team Handball had contacted the ATHF concerning the sanctioning issue prior to contacting the IHF. Pastorino, however, categorized the ATHF reaction as one of contempt, prompting the decision to seek intervention from the IHF.

In regards to what further actions would be taken, should their requests (sanctioning and ATHF dissolution) not be met, Pastorino had no comment. He did, however, indicate that sanctioning was a simple process and implied that any remuneration (i.e., fees) was likely negotiable.

Cristian Zaharia, of New World Sports Enterprises (NWSE) and the ATHF was also contacted via email and emphasized that the Miami Tournament was a private endeavor and flatly rejected the notion that a probationary federation responsible for the amateur side of the sport could force a for profit professional venture to seek sanctioning.

In regards, to dissolving the ATHF, Zaharia, noted that NWSE, not the ATHF, was the actual organizer and responsible party for the tournament. Zaharia also questioned the heavy handed approach and the underlying motives for the dissolution request:

“Under what right do you get to make that determination? In a country of approx 300M people, do you not think there is enough room for competing federations? Or is their business model designed so that it can not withstand any competition? And how does attempting to destroy an organization who is promoting team handball in US and organizing the arguably the single greatest event in the history of this sport here, will further the development and the credibility of this probationary federation?”

As to the IHF‘s role in the matter, Zaharia maintains that the IHF should not have any jurisdiction in this matter as their mandate is National Teams and international competitions.

With neither side appearing to budge for the time being, further resolution/action will likely wait until the planned meeting at the World Championships later this month. Team Handball News will keep you abreast on any new developments as they may happen.

USA Team Handball Notice:
ATHF Press Release (Nov 2008):