IHF By-Laws: Desirable Changes (Part 2)

Before I get into the substance of today’s segment, I want to thank those readers who have sent in feedback on the first installment, http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.857 also when in some cases they were taking opposing views. Clearly, there is not one right answer to each problem, and even if there were, I would never be the one to claim to have a monopoly on such ‘right answers’, not even after more than 30 years of experience within the IHF. This is also why I tend to focus more on identifying areas where problems have existed and where a change is needed, rather than on speculating in great detail about the precise solutions.

Also, some of the feedback focused on a general problem with the current By-Laws: they are poorly written (from both a legal and a linguistic standpoint), so they are hard to understand in some places, they create contradictions or ambiguities in other places, and they generally create a poor impression. I hope the necessary expertise is brought in to remedy this problem, also in those parts of the By-Laws where no substantive changes might be made.

So to the issues related to the Commissions. The main flaw of Article 17 is that it does not offer much more than lists of the areas of responsibility for each Commission. There are no provisions that clearly delineate the role of the Commissions in relation to the Council, and it is not even clear what rights and duties each Commission has as regards the planning and execution of the tasks it is being given. There is a notion that ‘within the four-year plan previously approved they have freedom of action’. This, however, was never possible to take literally. In some respects, the Commissions have received too little guidance, and there has been too little accountability for actual actions and results. In some respects, however, the suggested autonomy does not exist. Also within programs and projects that are well-established, there is often an insistence on specific re-approval for very minor efforts. Progress is blocked because specific expenditures have not been agreed, which in turn is caused by a lack of a joint budget development between the Treasurer and the respective Commission Presidents.

The main problem with the Commission structure as it exists today, however, is the excessive standardization. Each Commission, regardless of workload and the nature of its work, has a representative from each continent and the same total number of members (President + 7). For some Commissions, the emphasis is indeed on coordination between the IHF and the continents, but for others the focus is on carrying out a large amount of high-level technical work. Moreover, the extent of actual operational work varies a lot, and there is only one Commission (Rules & Referees) that also has a large personnel responsibility for a group of people (the referees) both during the course of the year and especially during IHF events. It is clear that the staffing of each Commission should be based on its needs, and not on a standard allocation.

However, there are clear indications that a change in the basic structure is needed. A large part of the IHF’s efforts is undertaken in support of the grassroots development in the developing handball countries. By contrast, except in the areas of organizing the big IHF competitions and in developing and nurturing the top level referees, the IHF does not have much of role at the elite level; for instance, it would be an illusion to think that the IHF could have the internal capacity to do much for the development of the game or the education of the coaches at the elite level. This has also been reflected in the excessive scope of work for some of the Commissions and the simultaneous lack of a serious role for others.

This leads me to a relatively drastic proposal: ‘Organization and Competition’ should remain relatively unchanged. ‘Medical’ could continue to exist, focusing on injury prevention, but in a much reduced format, as the critical work is really done in the Anti-Doping Unit. The ‘Promotion and Public Relations’ should take on the full tasks of selecting and deploying instructors and of ensuring access to the necessary educational material for the developing countries. This should be done with an increased staffing provided from the current ‘Coaching and Methods’. On the other hand, beach handball should be moved out to a separate, full-fledged Commission, with no further role for ‘Promotion and Public Relations’. This would lead to an undivided and homogenous set of tasks and responsibilities for technical grassroots development.

Similarly, the support role, from a coaching perspective, that selected individuals from ‘Coaching and Methods’ have played together with ‘Rules & Refereeing’ (the ‘Kitchen Group’ as IHF insiders know it) should be more formally integrated into an expanded ‘Rules & Refereeing’. This means that, after passing on its only two areas of any importance, ‘Coaching and Methods’ would cease to exist, and I am confident that, sadly, it would not be missed. There would be 5 Commissions also in the future, with a slight increase in aggregate staffing, but with a more reasonable staffing in each area.

In other articles I have commented on the underutilized and ineffective Athletes Commission. (This is not a ‘commission’ in a normal sense and it does not really exist within the formal structure). The issue is here that the athletes must be given an increased, genuine voice. This may well be supported by some kind of informal entity, perhaps called ‘working group’, so that communications between player representatives are facilitated. But I refuse to believe that a separate commission or working group is the way to achieve change. As I see it, insight, participation and influence will only come if the athletes can nominate, officially under the By-Laws, one member of each ‘normal’ Commission and one or two full members of the Council.

Part 3, with a focus on the Congress and the decision-making there, will follow within the next week or so.