The International Handball Federation (IHF) has gone forward with plans to split the Pan-American Handball Federation (PHF). According to official statements released by both the PHF and IHF, the IHF Council meeting in Zagreb this past Sunday (January 14) voted to split the Pan American region into 2 separate Continental Federations. Following the meeting the IHF then sent a letter to the PHF informing them of the split and telling them to cease operations.
A Pair of Official Statements Takes Each Side to Task
The PHF then issued a fiery official statement on Thursday taking IHF President Hassan Moustafa to task for attempting to destroy Pan American Handball. Not to be outdone the IHF fired back on Friday with a statement of their own outlining how the PHF has failed to develop handball in Pan America and why the IHF is justified in its actions.
PHF Official Statement (18 January 2018): Link
IHF Official Statement (19 January 2018): Link
Both the PHF and IHF outline some of the “legal” aspects that support their side. The PHF highlights notes that “the uprecedented forced division of our continental federation violates democratic and self-governance principles expressed in the very IHF statutes, as well as Swiss Law, where IHF is located.” The PHF also notes that the PHF rejected the proposed split in a near unanimous vote at an PHF Extraordinary Congress this past October and that the IHF vote at the IHF Congress in November had only 60% (less than a 2/3 majority) vote in favor of a motion to let the IHF Council address the split issue. Further, the PHF notes that the IHF Arbitration Commission has failed to respond in a timely manner to an appeal that was filed on November 11, 2017. The final parting shot from the PHF:
“PATHF will seek all legal paths available to stop this outrage from Moustafa and to defend the integrity of worldwide handball from those forces from the past that make lack of transparency and manipulation their only sport.”
As one might expect the IHF takes issue with the PHF legal position. In particular, the IHF has a different vote tally for the IHF Congressional vote (68%) based on fewer abstentions. And, they take the PHF to task for holding the October Extraordinary PHF Congress without inviting the IHF President in violation of the IHF statutes. Indeed, the PHF violation was submitted to the IHF Arbitration Commission for their review and recommendation to the IHF Council and Executive Committee, and this violation was the precedence used to suspend the PHF.
Repercussions: Tournaments in Jeopardy?
The action by the IHF to immediately suspend PHF operations puts into doubt several major tournaments scheduled to take place later this year including the Men’s and Women’s Pan American Beach Handball Championships scheduled for March in Oceanside, California, the Men’s North American & Caribbean Championships (Location TBD) and the Men’s Handball Championships scheduled for June in Greenland. As these events are qualifiers for the World Championships the IHF has indicated that they will assume organization responsibilities, but such a role in the midst of legal wrangling over splitting the PHF could be complicated.
Also, apparently lacking due to the conflict between the PHF and IHF is any orderly transition plan to go from one functioning Federation to two new Federations. Such a transition would be somewhat complicated under ideal circumstances, but under the current situation is really difficult to plan for. This is particularly true when you consider that many nations are caught in the uncomfortable position of choosing sides while legal aspects of the proposed split are unsettled.
With the PHF indicating that they will be seeking all legal path available it seems likely that this conflict will eventually find its way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS is an independent body that handles sport related disputes. When and how the case is settled is an open question.
In the meantime, we should expect some formal announcements as to how the upcoming PHF competitions scheduled this year will be organized, in the near future
Previous Team Handball News Commentaries Regarding the Proposed Split
- The IHF Proposes a Pan-American Split (Part 1): The Pros and Cons: Link
- The IHF Proposes a Pan-American Split (Part 2): The Curious Politics Behind the Proposal and a High Stakes Vote in Turkey: Link
Recent Articles on Other Sites Regarding the Split Controversy
The recriminations from both sides and the elements to this proposed split warrant further analysis. I am working on a commentary that I will publish in the near future.