I hope the IHF will not be upset that I reveal some new information before they have had a chance to announce it. But I think it is relatively harmless, so I will go ahead and use my inside information. The issue involves a new policy regarding uniforms that will need to be reflected in both the Playing Rules and in the Competition Regulations. In order to give teams a chance to adjust in preparation for the 2012-13 season, when the new policy will become effective, the IHF is planning to announce it very soon.
As most of you know, for many, many years we have had frustrating situations both in championship events and at the grassroots level, when the two teams have come to a game with uniform colors that are too similar, or when there have been some problems with the colors of a goalkeeper. And it has often been frustrating for the referees to try to anticipate what colors to use for a specific game. I can also recall all the technical meetings in championships where a lot of time was spent on discussing and agreeing on the colors for each game. So, quite wisely, the IHF has decided that something needed to be done to make everything simpler and clearer.
Amazingly, as the U.S. influence on world handball has not been very great over the years, it seems that the ideas for the solutions have come from the sports scene in U.S.A. Of course, here like in all other parts of the world, the teams and their fans have really strong feelings about the traditional colors of their teams. But they have come to accept that, in a very systematic way, they must be used to the reality that their teams essentially use different colors for the home and away games. This principle is what is now being adopted by the IHF for handball globally. The result should be that, for each game, both teams will know which uniform to wear, without any discussions or confusion.
Quite interestingly, it seems to have been easy to reach agreement on the basic principle, but the specific method apparently required some discussion. In a nutshell, the question was: should the IHF follow the NBA, the NHL or perhaps the NFL? Let me explain to those who do not follow these events so closely: in the NBA, the home team plays in light-colored uniforms and the visitors in dark uniforms. In the NHL it is the opposite. And in the NFL the home team always uses its favorite colors (light or dark) and the away team must adapt.
In the end it seems that the IHF opted to follow the NHL approach, requiring the home team to wear dark colors (primarily red or blue or a combination of the two, such as stripes or purple). The visitors then wear white or possibly light yellow or grey. The reason was that the home team fans like to wear their team colors in some way, and it makes for a more colorful and spectacular scene if they can wear strong colors. I did not mention green. That is because this color has been reserved for the goalkeepers. It may cause some irritation with some teams that green has eliminated as a choice, but it was seen as more important to achieve complete standardization for all goalkeepers.
And the referees? Well, here it is apparently back to all black! This may not be appreciated by some flamboyant referees who have become used to looking a little bit like ‘peacocks’ in recent years. However, I guess the IHF saw it as almost the only practical solution. If they had asked me, I might have suggested that ‘zebra’ stripes would be better. Not because I think it is such a great design, but simply because it would have created a better contrast to dark blue.
Personally I support the overall change. I do not know if it comes primarily from the rules side under Manfred Prause or from the competitions side under Leon Kalin, but I congratulate those who came up with the idea. It is likely that some teams will complain initially, perhaps especially the teams who have long traditions with green uniforms. But surely they can find ways to use green in a logo or in the trimming of a uniform in another basic color. Clubs like THW Kiel may also not be happy, as neither white nor black can be used at home, and any thoughts about returning to stripes must be forgotten. But I am confident that Kiel’s star qualities extend beyond their uniform colors. Perhaps a strong pink or dark orange color would suit them!?
Both I myself and the IHF would certainly welcome YOUR views on this new approach!