Real news from official Handball websites?

If you have ever read the “About the Site” page on our website, you’ll notice that there’s a short discussion about the “news” provided by official Handball websites. Essentially, the argument is that it’s very difficult for an organization to critically report on itself. Several recent events in the Handball World and the way some official websites reported on them certainly illustrate the inherent problems with self-reporting. Here’s a few examples covering a variety of topics:

[b]New Zealand Handball Federation: [/b] NZHF – newest member of the IHF:
For a fledgling organization that has liked to point out that they were all about developing the sport in New Zealand and didn’t care for the politics of the sport this article is notable for its omissions, naivety and/or dishonesty. While trumpeting their organization’s recognition by the IHF there is no mention of the IHF’s removal of the Oceania Federation President, Vern Winitana, from the Executive Council. Winitana and his family has been closely affiliated with the now deposed, Handball New Zealand. The closest the article gets to this issue is its mention of a “complex political situation.” There may very well be some legitimacy to the NZHF’s complaints that Handball NZ had done a poor job in the development of the sport in that country, but it’s naïve/dishonest to not recognize that the “love” being provided by the IHF is all about striking back at Winitana and has nothing to do with NZHF’s development efforts. Trust me, if Winitana was still in good graces with the current IHF leadership we certainly wouldn’t be treated to photos of the NZHF with the IHF leadership in Cairo.

[b]IHF: Interview with Dr Moustafa:[/b]
Well, this interview doesn’t even need commentary. Seriously, would anyone expect anything interesting to come out of such an interview?

[b]USA Team Handball Federation: Interview with Dr Moustafa:[/b]
This interview, however deserves some commentary. As an American who has invested a considerable amount of time and energy exposing the many shortcomings of Dr Moustafa this interview, to put it mildly, rubbed me the wrong way. Back in May during the USA National Championships, USATH send out an invite to all of their followers on Twitter to send in their questions for the IHF President. I sent in a number of questions, two of which actually made it into the interview, believe it or not. As you might expect, though, none of my questions on Asian Olympic Qualification, finance irregularities or doping were asked. Instead a litany of softball questions were lobbed toward Dr Moustafa with no probing even gently into any of those issues. Of course, some might argue that a national federation shouldn’t ask probing or controversial questions in an interview. But those folks are making the wrong point. The correct point to make is that a national federation shouldn’t be doing interviews with controversial figures for official news publication. Why? Because when you do an interview with a controversial figure and you lob questions like, “You have been a successful player, coach and administrator of handball throughout your life. What have been your proudest moments?“ and omit the discussion of real issues you lose credibility and imply that the controversial issues really aren’t important anyway.

USA Team Handball has big plans to further develop the sport and they need to work closely with the IHF, regardless of whether it’s the cleanest or most corrupt sporting organization on the planet. But, that work can be done quietly behind the scenes. Posting an absurd, fluff interview on the official website accomplished nothing other than to upset the sensitivities of some (one can only hope, most) of its membership.

[b]EHF reporting on 2009-10 Champions League Format and Seeding:[/b] In general, I would assess that the EHF does the best job amongst the official handball sites, in their efforts to self report. But while they might be the best, they all too often fall short of the mark, especially when it comes to their frequent omission of relevant facts. Case in point has been the controversies swirling around which clubs were being given direct tickets to the Main Round and which clubs were placed in qualification or wild card tournaments in next year’s Champions League. Leon Ademar won Spain’s National Cup tournament and felt they should have got direct placement into the main round ahead of Valladolid. Instead they will host a tough wild card tournament with Germany’s Lemgo a real threat to win. Additionally, Sweden was able to lobby successfully for a direct ticket to the Main Round at the expense of one of the other nations playing in the qualification groups. And underlying all of this is a debate throughout Europe as to whether the Champions League should be a league for the Champions or a league for Europe’s best teams. In other words, how is it decided that 4th place teams from German and Spain are more important than 1st place teams from other countries. Not surprisingly, there’s no mention of these controversies, just simple announcement as to the seeding for the draw.

To their credit the EHF has reported on negative issues like the spate of referee controversies pretty well for the most part with periodic announcement as to the status of their investigations. Sure it would be nice to get more detail, but at least they are providing an official position.

[b]Canada: [/b]While the EHF has been posting official positions on some negative issues, I’m a little disappointed that Canada never posted anything regarding their non-participation at the ongoing Women’s PATHF Championships. When asked, Canadian Federation Ward Hrabi, was very forthcoming with the circumstances surrounding this decision. But the issue here, is that I first had to notice they weren’t playing and then find the time to ask the questions and write the story. I do my best to keep up with what’s going on, but inevitably worthy stories fall through the cracks. Undoubtedly, many Canadians probably already knew what had happened, but for those that don’t a simple announcement was probably warranted.

[b]The Solution: [/b]Official sites should follow these 3 guidelines when deciding what to report and how to report it:
1) Don’t report on controversial subjects not directly related to your organization
2) When something controversial happens directly related to your organization, however, don’t ignore it. Provide an official explanation on your webpage
3) And finally, when reporting the controversial topic don’t omit obvious aspects of the controversy