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The players are the International Handball Federation’s main resource and the IHF is always open for discussion and to examine new proposals. Their health is the IHF’s priority.
IHF President Dr Hassan Moustafa how to reduce the workload of the players on the part of the IHF during the 2019 IHF Men’s World Championship in Germany and Denmark and put an initiative forward at the General Assembly of Forum Club Handball (FCH) on 26 January in Hamburg, Germany where the clubs were asked whether or not they would agree on a longer World Championship period, so that more rest days could be included. The FCH General Assembly unanimously agreed to his proposal. Dr Moustafa thus presented it to the IHF Council at their meeting in Herning, Denmark on 28 January 2019 and the IHF Council decided to increase the number of rest days.
Match scheme / rest days
As mentioned above, the players’ health is a priority at the IHF. For this reason, the IHF is working closely together with the European Handball Federation, aiming to have an international calendar which puts the athletes first. The IHF is willing to meet with the players’ representatives, discuss the matter and work on a solution together.
Taking a look at IHF events, the increase of the number of teams to 32 at World Championships, which was decided by the IHF Council in their meeting on 18 October 2018, was introduced with one of the main reasons being that a new match scheme could be applied – a schedule with more rest days, designed to protect the players’ health. The IHF introduced a new schedule for senior events from 2021 on. In the new system, there are no more back-to-back matches and the maximum number of matches per team is reduced. At first glance, it does not seem logical that a team has less matches if the overall number of teams increases, but, with the new match scheme, the maximum number of matches per team has been reduced from ten to nine.
The IHF believes that the new schedule is providing many good opportunities but is always open to receive further proposals. However, it is also clear that there are many interests to be taken into consideration and with the new schedule, a good solution was found.
Additional changes and size of squad to be analysed
Furthermore, the IHF analysed the feedback from the national federations as well as some players which was received with regard to the 2019 Men’s World Championship in Germany and Denmark. As a result, the possibility of additional changes in the squad is being considered as well as an increase in the number of players per team to give the coach the options to give more rest to the players.
Amending the IHF Rules of the Game
Moreover, in order to reduce the rather aggressive physical contact, thus reducing the risk of injuries, the IHF referees received new guidelines, which have been applied since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Due to the high acceptance of the new guidelines on the part of the players, handball was ranked number two with regards to the spectators at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which was a fantastic result. The players have shown the beauty of the sport of handball to the world and in return, handball got an outstanding result.
Athletes’ representation within the IHF
As for the voice of the athletes, the IHF is always willing to listen. The players are represented by the IHF Athletes’ Commission, which is chaired by Gro Hammerseng-Edin, one of the best Norwegian players and IHF Player of the Year 2007. The Athletes’ Commission is very committed and makes sure that the players’ interests are always taken into consideration. The IHF is the only International Sports Federation which determined in their criteria for election to the Athletes’ Commission that the player must be active in order to have a person in this important position who knows the situation of the players on the field. It is much better than having persons responsible who stopped their careers many years ago. Gro Hammerseng-Edin was voted into the Commission during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games together with Diego Simonet (ARG), Mouna Chebbah (TUN), Igor Vori (CRO) and Cristina Neagu (ROU). Overall, 94.6% of the 336 athletes competing in the 2016 Olympic Games took part in the voting. The Chairperson of the Athletes Commission represents the voice of the players on the IHF Council, as long as he/she is an active player, according to an IHF Council decision taken at their meeting in August 2017.
Insurance / Financial support
The IHF pays a compensation to the National Federations, which in turn forward this amount to the clubs of the players as a compensation for the release of the players to the National Federation in order for them to take part in the World Championships – this system has been applied since 2011 for Men’s World Championships and since 2013 for Women’s World Championships. In addition, the IHF is having a loss-of-salary insurance for the case that a player is getting injured during a World Championship. Hence, the IHF is taking precautions taking different aspects into consideration: the technical and financial factors as well as the aspects of health and rules.
On 1 April, the IHF received a letter from the European Handball Players Union (EHPU) asking for a meeting and explaining the current situation in handball from the players’ point of view. As usual, the IHF President welcomes the proposal of a meeting and is convinced that meetings on a regular basis should be carried out in order to improve.
In conclusion, the IHF is always on the move with regard to the players’ health. Therefore, initiatives and actions were considered and decided upon long before receiving any petition or request. It is the IHF’s obligation to continuously analyse not only the development of handball but also the impact of this development on our main resource, the players.