Representatives of Europe’s handball federations came together in Luxembourg in September 2022 for the Conference of Presidents and an Extraordinary EHF Congress. The two meetings debated the next steps for European handball and took a number of important decisions.
The EHF Executive Committee met before both meetings, taking a number of decisions affecting the 2023/24 season and beyond. These included the expansion of the EHF European League Men to 32 teams from 24; implementing separate rankings for the EHF Champions League and EHF European League for both men and women; and the approval of four cross-border leagues across Europe.
Entitled ‘European Handball Forward’, the Conference of Presidents served as an information exchange between the EHF and its member federations, and also prepared and facilitated future decision-making processes.
Six main areas were addressed at the conference. The gathering discussed the upcoming major events in European handball, including the EHF EUROs 2024 for men and women, and the EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023.
With women’s handball on the rise – as the EHF EURO 2024 expands to 24 teams – the conference heard of the efforts being put in to promote the game for women. These included the inaugural Women’s Handball Conference at the Women’s EHF EURO 2022 in Slovenia, North Macedonia and Montenegro in November, which marked next milestone on the EHF’s path to further raise the level of European women’s handball.
The future of the EHF’s younger age category (YAC) events as the decisive platform for developing future top players was explained, including the decision to expand all YAC EHF EUROs from 16 to 24 teams as of 2024. The new system is expected to allow the federations easier funding of their teams due to the participation in an EHF EURO instead of an EHF Championship. It provides a clear competition structure and eventually more matches to the participating teams.
The EHF also told the conference it would increase financial support for YAC competitions, with investments into areas such as TV and digital content production and additional support for participating federations and organisers.
The new ‘Circle of a Handball Life’ concept was presented to federation presidents; the concept is aimed at encouraging participation in handball from childhood to old age.
Tributes were paid to the growing interest in beach handball, as the EHF’s future activities in this area were presented. As well as the Beach EHF EURO in May 2023, the sport will make its debut at the European Games in Krakow, Poland, in June.
Furthermore, the EHF Beach Handball Commission is looking into a range of possibilities for future professionalisation including the development of a player registration system and a support programme for new beach handball nations and ebt organisers.
The conference also heard about the ‘Player of the Year’ campaign launched at the beginning of the 2022/23 season.
The Conference of Presidents was formally closed with the signings of two agreements for the EHF Master Plan between the Scottish and Croatian federations, respectively. Scotland and Croatia are the two latest federations to join the EHF Master Plan project, with agreements with the federations of Georgia, Latvia and Malta already in place. Both federations will focus on grassroots handball in their long-term strategic objectives.
"This is hugely important for our federation. We have been working to develop the sport of handball for 50 years and for us this is the next big step," said Ewan Hunter, Director of the Scottish Handball Association.
Both national federations will receive substantial financial and material support from the European Handball Federation for project implementation and development.
The 15th Extraordinary EHF Congress saw several motions related to the EHF Statutes as well as to statutes of the European Handball Court Arbitration (ECA) and to the legal regulations of the EHF being tabled.
Related to the EHF Statutes, the EHF passed a motion aimed at unambiguously including the principle of non-discrimination relating to gender and gender orientation.
A motion was also passed to recognise English as the sole official language of the European Handball Federation, another was passed to establish an evaluation group which shall in future assess the fulfilment of the necessary language competencies of candidates applying for functions within the EHF and a fourth was passed for the formal assignment of responsibilities to the EHF Executive Committee under special circumstances.