IHF: the usual lack of transparency

In this photo, Redondo (second from left) looked distraught long before the Championship started; did he anticipate what would happen?

In recent time the IHF has yet again confirmed its reputation for leaving the international handball world in the dark about its decision-making on important matters. Perhaps I should not be surprised, but I generally prefer to be an optimist and always want to hope for improvements. But the shadow of the IHF role models Mubarak and Blatter is evidently too deep.

During the recent Women’s World Championship in Brazil, fortunately the participating teams may not have realized so fully that the whole event was really nothing better than a ‘house of cards’ in terms of finances, marketing, accounting and administration. During the course of the event, the organizers ran out of money and could not handle the daily expenses so the IHF had to step in. There was very little revenue from ticket sales, as there were extremely few spectators, the budgeted sponsor income seemed to be quite lacking, and there was not even an adequately functioning host broadcasting company to serve the international TV audiences. The organizers are now substantially in debt to the IHF.

One might have hoped for something better, given that Brazil has had two IHF Council members, Manoel Oliveira, also President of both the Brazilian and the Panamerican Handball Federations, and Fabiano Redondo, President of the IHF Commission for Development and, in this case, also Director of the World Championship organizing committee. Brazil has hosted junior world championships in the past, as well as numerous Panamerican events, and both Oliveira and Redondo have participated in numerous IHF events as IHF officials and/or Brazilian representatives. So there would be no excuses for not understanding what was required.

Not surprisingly, this state of affairs did not go over well with the IHF leadership. So even if it has never been officially reported, and even if the IHF web page still shows Redondo as an IHF Council members and Commission President, it appears that the truth is he was ‘forced to resign’ already during an IHF Council meeting during the course of the World Championship. Presumably he was seen as the main person responsible, as the Director of the Organizing Committee; however, it has also been whispered that Oliveira should really take the main blame as the Brazilian federation president.

But, as some suspicious persons have been heard noting, perhaps IHF President Moustafa sees Oliveira as too valuable in the efforts to secure votes from PanAmerican countries. Who knows what the precise truth is? And that is precisely the point: handball federations, media and the ‘international handball family’ have the right to know about such important development. Not perhaps the gory details, but the main issues and considerations and the confirmation when a decision has been taken!

On a separate matter, the lack of transparency and good judgment has again become apparent. For any sports federation, the nomination of referees to a World Championship or, as in this case, the Olympic Games, is an important decision and announcement. In this type of situation, even the flawed role model FIFA tends to do a very credible job, with announcements that honor the nominees, provide background information about selection criteria, and explain the plans for preparation.

But in the case of the IHF, the ‘methods’ are different. If you have followed web sites of a number of sports media or national handball federations, you have been able to pick up the names of a handful of the couples nominated. And the IHF web page does indeed announce that a meeting has taken place where the decisions were taken, but apparently the method is to inform the nominees individually and to keep the overall decision a secret. Of course, given the prestige involved in such nominations, there is a great interest in the decision around the handball world.

There is always speculation about the reasons why a certain couple has been nominated and why another one has been left out. There can be differences of opinion about relative quality, but there are also understandable suspicions about favoritism, political manipulations and considerations related to image. For instance, will there be additional couples from ‘special countries’, will some referees ‘with connections’ be included ahead of others, how many women couples will there be, etc.? One would hope that the Referee Commission has been allowed to take a well-considered decision without any political pressure. But does not the IHF understand the simple fact that its careful concealed processes and its refusal to make public and informative announcement are bound to create suspicions even if there is nothing to hide??