IHF Memo Fires Back at Sec Gen Muehlematter and GCH’s Butzek

The IHF has sent a memo to the Presidents of National Federations as a response to media reports criticizing the IHF’s handling of administration, financial matters and doping issues. In the memo the IHF provides its own narrative of the General Council meeting where Secretary General Peter Muehlematter was asked unanimously by the IHF council to resign. Additionally the memo implies that the Group Club Handball (GCH) General Manager, Gerd Butzek, has an axe to grind with the IHF and is thus spreading false information.

The text of the Letter is below:

Basle, 27th March 2009

To the Members of the Council,
To the Member Federations

Dear President, Dear handball friend,

It is not customary for us to address you directly on IHF matters. However, as a number of those we have met recently have asked us questions about reports and articles published in the press over the last few months, we find it necessary to keep you informed of the situation that now prevails concerning the governance of handball worldwide.

Already at the time of the Women’s World Championship 2007 some German papers and magazines had published attacks against the IHF, its President and its Treasurer. The source of this information was not known then and the Council, meeting in Paris in December 2007, expressed its approval to the way IHF business was conducted by those in charge.

Again, on the occasion of the Men’s World Championship 2009, held in Croatia, attacks against the IHF appeared in the German and Swiss press, thus partly deflecting attention from a very successful competition to focus on rumours concerning the governance of handball worldwide. This time it was clear that the Secretary General of the IHF was the source of the false information conveyed to the media.

As a consequence, it was decided that the Council of the IHF, meeting in Zagreb on the last week-end of the World Championship, would devote as much time as necessary to a clarification of the situation.

For four hours the Secretary General had the opportunity to present all the arguments and documents he wished, to prove his point that the IHF executives were not properly fulfilling their duties particularly in the fields of
– Financial matters,
– Administration,
– Anti-doping policy,
– Staff management.

The former managing director of the IHF was called in to attend this four-hour session as most of the facts and situations happened when he held office. Mr. Mühlematter produced a file of documents and, in his presentation, concentrated mainly on financial issues.

The Council members first expressed their deepest regrets that the Secretary General of the IHF should have chosen to go to the press to express his grievances without ever mentioning them in an official IHF meeting. Second, they rapidly realized the misleading nature of the documents presented. In particular, it appeared that only the expense side of certain financial transactions was made available, thus creating an impression that was completely reversed as soon as the corresponding income side was shown.

The Council members repeatedly asked the Secretary General to produce at least one financial document that would prove convincing – this was never done. Concerning financial questions, it was finally underlined that the accounts of the IHF were regularly checked by internal auditors, by a professional supervisory firm and presented on the occasion of every IHF Congress and that none of them had ever found any fault.

Though no oral presentation was given by Mr. Mühlematter on administrative issues, the Council members underlined the misleading nature of the documents they had been supplied with. Once again only partial information was provided and totally taken out of context.

At the end of this four-hour session, the Council considered that the allegations conveyed in the press were unfounded and that they had seriously damaged the image of handball and that of the IHF. They therefore invited Mr. Mühlematter to offer his resignation. This was refused, as in the IHF Bylaws no provision exists that makes it possible for the Council to force a member into resignation.

A motion was then produced by the Council expressing condemnation of the action conducted by the Secretary General and stating the above-mentioned facts. In the ensuing vote the President and the Treasurer abstained, being considered as targets of the attacks launched by the Secretary General, they could not pass judgement on themselves. The final result was one vote against the motion (Mühlematter), all other votes in favour.

After this meeting, when it seemed that the situation had been clarified and after the Council had clearly expressed its disapproval of the method of communication used by the Secretary General, Mr. Mühlematter gave an interview to a Swiss television channel where he once again expressed unfounded accusations against the IHF and presented himself as the “white knight” of international handball.

Among the accusations that have been fed to the press, the one concerning doping is potentially extremely damaging and we also wish to supply you with information on this point.

Basically, the IHF was accused of not fulfilling its obligations concerning anti-doping measures and quite understandably, journalists, during the Men’s World Championship kept asking us questions about this issue.

It must be absolutely clear that the IHF is fully committed to a clean sport and to the global anti-doping strategy prevailing worldwide. This commitment finds its financial translation in the 2008 budget whose line concerning anti-doping amounts to 45000 CHF.

There is, however, a technical difficulty that concerns all team sports and which the IHF is currently trying to overcome. In partnership with the IOC, ASOIF and WADA and upon our express request, we are trying to design a control system applicable to team sports and that respects the athletes’ individual liberty. This approach on our part is the clear sign of our commitment to a worldwide struggle against doping and in favour of a clean sport and we very much regret that on this question again, totally wrong information should have been supplied to the press by the Secretary General.

In addition to the above-mentioned, it seems that the IHF Secretary General is collaborating with Mr. Gerd Butzeck, former member of the IHF Commission for Promotion and Public Relations, who was dismissed from the IHF due to infringement. Mr. Butzeck in his position as the General Manager of the Group Club Handball EEIG, raised accusations in a press release, most of which are similar to those groundless ones brought up by the IHF Secretary General during the IHF Council meeting in Zagreb (CRO) and which had been rejected by the Council.

The General Manager of the Group Club Handball EEIG planned to form a private handball league and got into conflict with the European Handball Federation. The IHF is deeply frustrated about such harmful initiative and supports the European Handball Federation against this gentleman. Both Mr. Mühlematter and Mr. Butzeck are in direct contact with journalists in Germany, France and Denmark to publish their false information.

A number of you have strongly recommended that the IHF should take advantage of the Swiss law that makes it possible for an association to make one of its responsible office-bearers leave office having caused damage to the association. We have no doubt that we are clearly placed in such a situation. However, we consider that we should stick to our Bylaws and let the Congress decide how it wants world handball to be governed.

As you may imagine, this is not a pleasant letter for us to write. We, nevertheless, have the feeling that it was our duty to keep you informed of the situation prevailing inside the Executive Committee of the IHF. We can assure you that our sport has shown its worth to the world again on the occasion of the World Championship in Croatia, and we have no doubt that, on the basis of our joint efforts, it will continue its fantastic progress in the years to come.

Dear President, dear friend, we thank you for your attention and send you our best regards.

Dr. Hassan Moustafa, President, International Handball Federation
Tor Lian, Vice-President IHF, President EHF
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Vice-President IHF, President AHF
Mansourou A. Aremou, Vice-President IHF, President CAHB
Manoel Luiz Oliveira, Vice-President IHF, President PATHF

Editor’s note: These previous stories at Team Handball News are related to the subject memo:
Group Club Handball: Moustafa Conduct Puts Handball's Olympic Status in Danger:
Commentary: IHF Council misses its chance for an “I am Spartacus” moment: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.698