EHF Doubles Down on it’s failure to take action

You’re kidding me? The shirt pulling incident is now a lighthearted whimsical non-event.

The jersey pulling incident at the Women’s European Championship has just gotten a little bit more bizarre.  Here’s a refresher as to what happened.  During the Serbia – Norway preliminary round match, the Serbian coach, Sasa Boskovic, grabbed Norwegian right wing, Linn Jorum Sulland’s jersey and arm.  Yes, standing on the sidelines the head coach of one team reached out and physically disrupted the play of an opposing player.

What’s the penalty for such a transgression?  Well, the referee’s didn’t see anything during the match so there was no immediate penalty.  Afterwards, however, as my colleague, Christer Ahl, noted it would be appropriate for European Handball Federation (EHF) officials to bar coach Boskovic from the rest of the tournament.

But, then the hand wringing began.  First, the EHF issued one of their traditionally oblique memos regarding an “incident.”

Nobody saw it, nobody complained and therefore we can’t do anything about it.  I’m not certain as to the regulation nuance, but this was ridiculous.  Federations should be able to make use of video footage to evaluate conduct like that and to take appropriate action.  But the EHF compounded their handwringing by adding “It is however evident that the media, through the selection of match scenes, has not presented a complete picture of the incidents.”  Alright, here’s some video to peruse.  Judge for yourself what more evidence you need.

The Serbian Federation also issued an apology:  “Please accept our apology,” the statement reads. “Since it all happened in the heat of the match.”

So, “not a complete picture” and “heat of the moment.”  Maybe the Serbian coach had some good reasons for being upset with the Norwegian winger?  Nothing that would justify his actions, of course, but maybe they would at least explain the non-punishment.  Well, according to this Serbian website article Coach Boskovic was upset with Sulland for invading his space and preventing him from communicating with his players.  Huh?  Quite frankly, I’ll actually give Boskovic credit for perhaps playing a role in taking a Norwegian player out of the game mentally on offensive.   The little game that was being played between the coach and the wing was undoubtedly a distraction for Sulland.  She, however, is a player and can stand anywhere she wants to.  All he had to do was move a few feet to the left.  Instead he reaches out and grabs her.  Trust me coach, there’s nothing you could have said to your players that was so important to physically make contact with a player on the court.

As someone who wishes handball would be taken more seriously, you get used to shaking your head at such events, and moving on.  It’s hard to know for certain why the EHF doesn’t take more action.  It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the coach in question is the coach of the nation hosting the tournament.  Moreover, Serbia agreed to host at the last moment when the Netherlands bowed out.

And I was ready to move on until I saw this posted on the EHF webpage.  I don’t know where to begin here.  The EHF has now double downed on its failure to take action by trying to pass off this incident as a light hearted moment.  What could possibly be the message behind this?  Ha, ha, it’s no big deal for coaches to make physical contact with the opposing players?  How can you make light of such a transgression?  Wouldn’t it be hilarious if this happened again in the final of a close match?  What’s going to be the reaction then?  Well, unfortunately the precedent has been set.  I’m wondering what the written words will be for that jersey gift.

Seriously, I don’t know what I’m going to see next.  Maybe, players will get caught betting against their own team and then add a betting sponsor as an advertiser on their jerseys.