As John Ryan briefly mentioned a few days ago, it appears that important changes are tentatively underway regarding the competition system for PanAmerican championships. While the proposals need to be formally ratified during an Extraordinary PATHF Congress that is planned to be held in December during the Women’s World Championship in Brazil, it seems that the changes have gained sufficient momentum so that one could expect them to be approved. The person who ‘spilled the beans’ was PATHF Vice-President Mario Moccia, whose interview was captured by Ruben Gomez on his web site Mundohandball.com
Some years ago, a structure was introduced under which there would be an Elite Division and a ‘Division 1’, with promotions and relegations between the two levels on the basis of the rankings in these events. The Elite Division has had eight participating countries under this format. While this system on paper has a fair and professional look, it has caused major problems for those countries whose teams are on the borderline between the two levels or who rarely make it out of the Division 1 level. The main issue is that these countries have major difficulties in encountering government support or sponsors for the often expensive participation in these events.
Very few governments find it very interesting to support participation at what is really a secondary level, despite the label ‘Division 1’. Moreover, if the team does quality for promotion to the higher level, it entails a doubling of the expenses. And the interest among spectators, TV broadcasters and sponsors for a secondary level event is obviously also very limited, so there is not much of a PR value involved in hosting or participating in such an event.
Accordingly, the tentative proposal is to abolish the Division 1 and instead increase (from 8 to 12) the number of participants in THE PanAmerican Championship. Of course, the PanAmerican continent has a much larger number of countries with handball federations, so the issue of how the 12 participants will be selected clearly may become a matter of debate. The PATHF may find some formula for the first event in each category (senior, junior, youth for both men and women), on the basis of recent results. For future years, the lowest ranked teams may be replaced by the winners of some form of less costly regional qualifying. But these important details remain to be worked out.
It seems that there will be some difficulties in finding organizers for the expanded events, as few of the national federations in PanAmerica have the infrastructure, resources and experienced needed to host such large events. It is likely that the bulk of the events may have to be held in either Argentina or Brazil, something that would not be greeted with enthusiasm by the participants from the Northern or Central parts of the continent.
At least it seems understood that there is a basis for determining the host of the 2012 Men’s Championship. This event serves as the qualifying event for the 2013 World Championship, and it would make a great difference in the ranking and seeding for 2013 if a team wins or ‘only’ comes in second in the 2012 PATHF Championship. Both Argentina and Brazil would like to have that edge, which would be easier to obtain as a host. So it now seems agreed that the winner of tomorrow’s final Argentina-Brazil will win not just the Olympic tickets but also the right to host in 2012.