Working towards perfection

A ball, two goals and two teams of seven players in a sports hall – that was enough for a handball match in the past.

Now top handball is played in huge multi-purpose arenas in front of thousands of spectators and beamed live across the world by multiple TV stations.

To ensure the best possible conditions not just for players and spectators but also the media and TV production, the EHF has set high standards for the set-up of arenas and venues.

In 2015, the federation started a new infrastructure project with the aim of improving the standard of arenas used for both national team and club competitions.

The project has continued throughout 2016 and has seen the creation of a new arena database, which includes detailed arena information such as dimensions, number of spectator seats, ancillary facilities etc. as well as arena plans and photographs

The huge task of compiling this information has been undertaken by Thomas Gangel from the EHF’s Competitions Department, who has inspected every single arena in Europe where EHF competitions are played.

The main focus of his work has been on improving the playing arenas within club competitions from the Challenge Cup to the Champions League.

“When a new club qualifies for our competition we inspect the arenas and check the plans – and of course we give advice on what needs to be changed or adapted,” says Gangel.

“We need big arenas, but we also have to care of the general situation of the clubs and try to find the perfect way to cater all needs.

Speaking in Sweden ahead of the Women’s EHF EURO, Jan Tuik, former EHF Competition Commission chairman and now senior advisor on arena infrastructure and arena architecture, confirmed this view.

“The requirements differ from competition to competition,” he said. “A venue for the Challenge Cup does not have to fulfil the same standards as for the VELUX EHF Champions League.” Since the first EURO events in 1994, the Dutchman has been an expert on those tasks and part of all inspections for major events such as the EHF EUROs.

The thinking on and requirements for arenas, especially the size and spectator capacity have changed greatly over the years.

“The base area around the court has grown and grown due to the requirements of media and TV production to more than 50 x 25 metres,” says Tuik: “You cannot even compare the standards we had in 2006 to the current standards.”

The EHF have collected all major requirements for arenas for the various competitions in its Arena Construction Manual and the Set-Up Manual for the EURO events.

“We have been constantly updating these manuals for more than ten years, always with the clear message that the security of players and the perfect environment for them to play is the most important,” says Tuik.

“We have to have completely new dimensions for example for the size of TV studios, which increased from 4 x 4 metres to 6 x 6 metres, the TV production, especially the number of cameras used to cover the matches, increased.

As the EHF’s highest profile national team event watched by billions of people around the globe, the EHF EURO offers a big challenge to ensure the best possible presentation of the event and a perfect picture for TV viewers.

Working with the event’s partner, Infront Sports & Media, the EHF has taken care of the evolution of standards and requirements not just for the media but also in terms of on-site entertainment and corporate hospitality – all aspects that are checked and double checked ahead of each event through a series of site inspections and planning meetings.

The sport is developing continually and increasingly technology is also a factor that has to be taken into consideration. Recent developments such as goal-line cameras, instant replay and also goal-lights behind the goal have to be considered.

It is our task to secure highest production standards to bring a perfect picture into the living rooms of fans,” concludes Tuik before continuing his work in the Hovet Arena in Stockholm.