The IHF Congress: Part 1 – The elections

It is too easy too fall for the group pressure instead of having the courage to use independent judgment

The International Handball Federation (IHF) will hold its Ordinary Congress in Doha, Qatar, October 26-27.  Every four years, the main item on the congress agenda is the elections for all the governing positions in the IHF.  However, under the current president, the elections have become rather perfunctory as far as many of the key positions are concerned.  For reasons which I have described on many occasions in the past, the notion of democracy in these elections is in many ways an illusion.  By using his position of power skillfully, the president and his closest followers have managed to gain such control of the majority of the electorate that it is not a situation where clear indications are obtained and individual opinions are expressed by the presumably more than 100 voting member federations.

Unfortunately, large blocks of votes belong to federations whose representatives are essentially uninformed about what happens in the inner circles in the IHF and moreover have reasons to follow the hints and instructions they get through continental bosses or other power brokers.  Many of them are indebted to the IHF due to different forms of support which has been received or promised, and they would not want to take the risk of assuming that another regime would be treating them more appropriately.  And the ‘middlemen’ have their own reasons (financial or power) to defend status quo, as they do not want to risk their own personal positions.  Those who understand what is going on and would like to see change, (e.g., the majority of the stronger and experienced handball countries), do not have the votes or the influence to prevail, and they therefore see no point in stirring things up.

So the result is that for the three top positions, president, first vice-president, and treasurer, the three incumbents (Moustafa, Roca and Sola) are running unopposed, despite what many people know about their background and think about their suitability.  The hope for some balance or gradual change would then rest with the elections for the two at-large positions on the Executive Committee.   Here we have, as of this moment, a slate of eight candidates:  Bobinac (Slovenia), Delplanque (France), Hauksson (Iceland), Johannesen (Norway), Lavrov (Russia), Rubeli (Switzerland), Taborsky (Czech Republic) and Ms. Turlykhanova (Kazakhstan).

I would venture the opinion that among these eight candidates one could find five who would capably fill all the five slots on the Executive Committee, but unfortunately that is not the situation we have.  Delplanque may have the inside track, being an incumbent in a position that is being eliminated.  Many of the others have a very strong background, as presidents or managers of a national federation and with an impressive business experience.   Among the candidates there is also a woman, who could become the first woman as an IHF Executive.  It would be desirable to get some balance against the excessive Mediterranean influence in the Executive, so an experienced Nordic candidate might fit in.  But it seems a bit puzzling from a tactical standpoint that two Nordic federation presidents are in the competition against each other, so perhaps some ‘synchronization’ will take place prior to the election.

I will comment only on a few more positions.  It is interesting to note that two Asians are competing for the position as Chair of Coaching and Methods, with the more ‘political’ incumbent Bu Marzouq from Kuwait being challenged by the strong technician (national team coach and IHF referee) Chung from Korea.  The Chair of the Development Commission has been vacant for a while, after having most recently been held by a Panamerican, and another representative from our continent, Sepulveda from Puerto Rico is now up against former star player Tuchkin of Russia.  From a personal standpoint, I would certainly want to see the added influence of a third Council member from our continent.

Finally, in the context of what I reported just a few days ago, about the latest developments regarding allegations of serious wrongdoing in the process of granting the IHF TV rights for 2010-13, one would want to suggest that the position of Chair of the newly established Ethics Commission is a critical one.   Of course, considering that it is the IHF president himself who is yet again in the focus of the accusations, one might wonder how much he really desires to give this Commission power and independence.   So it is really disconcerting that the only two candidates in similar ways seem highly questionable choices.  Strombach, who recently left the presidency of the German federation, has a well-known record of being ‘extremely closely aligned’ with the IHF president.  Petersson of Sweden was until recently the President of the International Sailing Federation,  in other words for many years a counterpart and close colleague of the IHF president in the association for summer Olympic sports.   This does not create the right image of an arms-length distance to the IHF president and a strong independence.