Beach Handball

Bringing beach handball to Europe

The summer alternative of indoor handball is ready to make the next big step

While the odd years, such as 2015, are considered to a certain extent the quieter ones on a national team level and indoors with no EHF EURO to be played, the situation is the exact opposite when it comes to beach handball.

With the European Beach Handball Tour Finals in May and the second edition of the EHF Beach Handball Cup in November on the calendar, the high point of the beach handball season was at the beginning of July when the European Championships were played in Lloret de Mar.

Lloret 2015 was not only a hit from the sport’s point of view, but also when it came to the attention from outside. Spanish sports channel Teledeporte broadcast the semi-finals and finals with Spanish participation, and the coverage reached hundreds of thousands. The women’s bronze medal match between Spain and Italy was watched by 244,000, while 226,000 stayed for the men’s final between defending champions Croatia and Spain. A peak had been reached already the day before when 318,000 people watched the women’s semi-final between Spain and Norway.

The championships also saw an increase in the numbers of people following the event on social media, which was also partly due to the work of photographer Axel Heimken. The European Handball Federation had hired the experienced sports photographer to specifically showcase the sport in the best light possible, with an exclusive beach handball photo book the eventual outcome.

Lloret 2015 was not only a hit from the sport’s point of view, but also when it came to the attention from outside. Spanish sports channel Teledeporte broadcast the semi-finals and finals with Spanish participation, and the coverage reached hundreds of thousands. The women’s bronze medal match between Spain and Italy was watched by 244,000, while 226,000 stayed for the men’s final between defending champions Croatia and Spain. A peak had been reached already the day before when 318,000 people watched the women’s semi-final between Spain and Norway.

With promising attendance and viewership numbers on the one hand, and with the International Handball Federation’s proclaimed goal to bring beach handball to the Olympic Games by 2024 on the other hand, Ole Jorstad, Chairman of the Beach Handball Commission, says the sport is ready to take the next step.

“The European Championships are being taken more seriously, and the standards have also increased. I can see that we have more and more nations joining the beach handball family.

“The basics have been laid, we are at a good stage and we are ready to take a huge step.

“At the moment there is not that much money in beach handball. In one way or the other we need more TV coverage and we need more sponsors. If you can generate more money, you can also develop the sport further.”

For the Norwegian, it is important that the sport continues to grow and develop – something that relates not only to market share and visibility, but also to the rules that govern it.

Hence the federation’s approach to award three points (instead of the usual two) for in-flight goals at the junior’s tournament in Lloret.

“Every sport every now and then needs a new dimension and we need to give it something new. If you are not developing the rules, you will become boring after a while – and this was one of the reasons why we changed the rules for in-flight goals, and the test was really successful,” said Jorstad.

While the IHF is aiming for the Olympic Games, Jorstad focuses on Europe and at another major multi-sport event that is only four years away.

“We should focus on bringing beach handball to the second edition of the European Games in 2019. It will be a new step for us, if we make it to the European Games. Last year we introduced the Champions Cup, and this would be the next huge step for us,” he says.