Taking Younger Age Category Championships to the next level

Following the EHF Congress decision in 2014,
the foundations for the new youth and junior tournaments were laid in 2015

Organising younger age category European Championships for the up-and-coming handball generations has been at the heart of the EHF since its foundation.

The first events took place in the early 1990s and ever since the championships’ profiles have increased and so has the number of teams participating.

However, despite the growing success it had been observed that it was more and more difficult to find organisers for the qualification tournaments, and furthermore it was noted that a big discrepancy in the competition level and performance between the different participants occasionally led to ‘disharmonic’ match results.

The solution to tackle these issues was found at the EHF Congress in Dublin in September 2014, when an EHF motion to change the current format to a system that replaces the qualifications with a system of first and second division tournaments including relegation between the two found the overwhelming support of the member federations.

“The main target of the new proposal is to optimise the competition level, to provide all teams with a reasonable number of matches and to reduce the costs for organisation and participation in order keep the competitions accessible,”

In early spring 2015 the federations then showed that they have already adapted to the changes and are ready to work within the new system, as a record number of registrations was noted by the European Handball Federation for the 2016 EHF Men’s 18 tournaments, the first being held under the new  system.

43 European federations have registered their Men’s 18 teams for the championships next year – never before in the history of the EHF have there been that many teams expressing their interest.

It was then decided that 2016 would see four tournaments being played, three EHF Championships (the second division tournament) in Bulgaria (11 teams), Lithuania and Georgia (eight teams each) respectively, and one EHF EURO (the first division tournament) in Croatia (16 teams).

The participation in the respective division has been based on the results and ranking of the respective nations over the past eight years.

According to the motion the new system shall come into effect for the Men’s 18 EHF tournaments in 2016, for the Men’s 20 EHF tournaments in 2018, for the Women’s 17 EHF tournaments in 2017 and for the Women’s 19 EHF tournaments in 2019.

The registration process for the women’s younger age category events in 2017 has already started.

With this new system the EHF also looks at the expansion of the Men’s EHF EURO events from 16 to 24 participating teams from 2020 onwards.

“The increased number of participating teams in men’s adults final tournaments needs an approach from the bottom to the top in order to raise the overall competition level in various nations, increase the involvement of youngsters and by this enlarge the number of nations being competitive for Men’s EURO qualifications.

“The same holds true for women’s competitions in order to strengthen female handball for the future,” were further key phrases when the new system was introduced.