Yesterday the IHF hosted a brief conference ‘Forum for the Future of Handball’. Discussions were held on three areas of topics: Game Structure and Development, Handball on TV, and Handball and its Partners. This type of conferences often produces very little in terms of new discoveries and great ideas. And it is not realistic to pursue topics very far during just a few hours. But it is still useful to have these events, because ideas that may already exist or be rather obvious may be given some added legitimacy or momentum simply by being discussed in a highly visible forum outside the closed doors of the IHF.
The IHF has issued a brief statement commenting on the main conclusions in the three areas. http://www.ihf.info/MediaCenter/News/NewsDetails/tabid/130/Default.aspx?ID=467 I will basically focus only on the first part, leaving the issues of handball on TV and marketing for later. Generally, it is easy for me to welcome and support the conclusions regarding rules and refereeing, because I have written about many of these topics in recent time.
I am not surprised to read that “the speed of the game has reached its limit” and I fully agree. This is not out of concern for the referees, although that is one consideration, but simply because I have heard numerous top coaches and players express the same sentiment in recent years. The control and quality would suffer with increased speed. And the current pace of the game may be high enough also for the spectators to handle.
From a TV standpoint, I am not surprised to see that there was support for an additional team time-out per team and game. This makes sense, but only in games broadcast on TV. For normal games, the current situation, with one time-out per team and half should remain adequate. Additional ones would cause unwanted extensions of the game at the lower levels.
Of course, I am especially happy to see agreement that the method of ‘video review’ should be pursued in the near future, in support of referee decisions in special circumstances. Over the last year, I have written detailed articles in support of such a development. http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.977 http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.1052 But it will require a careful determination of appropriate procedures and safeguard, and it is obviously only realistic at levels where adequate camera coverage is available.
Otherwise I am very content that there was not a ‘flood’ of suggestions for rules changes. This tends to be the ‘easy solution’ when improvements are sought. But at this time there are no glaring problems in the rules, and stability would be important in the near term. Quite correctly, the emphasis was instead placed on measures in support of the top level referees. Also here I have written extensively and recently, http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.1099 http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.1095 noting that the IHF referees continue to need strong support also after they have been able to reach the World Championship level. Cognitive skills, decision-making capacity, and human relations skills are just some of the relevant aspects. And, as always, their understanding of the tactical and technical aspects of the game remains vital.
So, it is nice to be able to support what is being reported. But once again my frequent concern: why where there virtually no current top players in the Forum? Their perspective is very important!