Poland 2016 – the best EHF EURO so far
The year started with the EHF EURO in Poland – a record-breaking event with hundreds of thousands of spectators and billions of TV viewers following the action. Off court too, the event and its organisers, the Polish Handball Federation, received extensive praise from all sides.
“From the initial bid, right through to its promotion and organisation, this was probably the best EURO we have seen,” said Monika Flixeder, EHF senior manager for EHF EURO events. “Poland set a true benchmark for future organisers.”
One of the keys to this highly successful EURO event was the structure of the organising committee. A full two and a half years prior to the throw-off, a clear task distribution had been developed, headed-up by Marcin Herra, who was vice president of the Polish Federation and chairman of the Organising Committee at that time.
“We were more than satisfied across all departments,” Herra said during the event. “The atmosphere in the arenas and in the hosting cities was brilliant. It was not only the Polish people who were infected by this handball virus, but all those thousands of fans from abroad, who created a colourful, friendly and positive atmosphere. This paid back all our hard work and preparations.”
Poland had started their international promotion very early. “They grabbed every chance to promote the event, for example at other EURO events, world championships as well as congresses. This was one of the keys to their success,” said Flixeder.
Right after Poland was awarded the right to host the final tournament at the 2012 EHF Congress in Monaco, the Polish Federation started their work – when Poland was already joint host of the UEFA EURO with Ukraine.
“It was our dream to have a similar festive atmosphere on the streets of Poland, as we had during the football championship – though we knew that our event would be in winter. And all our hopes were fulfilled, the concept for example of having dedicated fan zones in all cities was a huge success,” Herra said.
The two years of promoting the event European-wide were also worth it: “It was one of our major tasks not to focus only on the Polish matches in Krakow, but to have full arenas in all venues, and by looking at the spectator numbers in Gdansk, Katowice and Wroclaw we were more than happy. For example, we had thousands of fans from Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany in the venues, so our idea truly worked.”
Additionally, the OC managed to integrate the hosting cities in their event concept and received extensive political and financial support on a local level. “The trophy tour for example through all major cities prior to the event worked very well”, says Flixeder, who also praises the general cooperation: “It was transparent and highly professional, all scheduled deadlines were met and we had a constant exchange of information.”
For Herra, the Polish experience of hosting big sports events before like in football and volleyball was another reason for the success of the championship, as well as the cooperation with EHF experts: “It is like a car. You build the engine and the chassis, but to have a perfect car you need to have a perfect tuning and set-up, this was done through the expertise of the EHF.”
To analyse the success of the event, ZRPR started an online survey of all stakeholders of the event – fans, teams, VIP, media and others. Through in-depth questionnaires they were asked to rate different parts of the event – and the mark for the organisers was brilliant: From a scale from 1 (low) to 7 (high) the average across all groups was more than six. “This positive feedback proves that we did the right things across all areas of the event,” Herra said.
So finally, the event’s motto “Feel the Emotions” was a perfect one, “in all way”, says Herra with a smile, as he thinks about the fact that the Polish side missed the final weekend: “From the sporting point of view this EURO was full of surprises, unfortunately also for our team. But although Poland was not part of the final weekend, the spectator numbers in Krakow were excellent both on Friday (for the semi-finals) and were even higher on Sunday (for the finals).”
To have full arenas in all venues was a key achievement in Flixeder’s opinion: “We had the biggest arenas ever with the highest percentage of tickets sold. The fans loved the venues, and also our partners were extremely satisfied, especially in areas such as VIP and hospitality.”
The EURO also proved to be a boost for handball in Poland, in terms of kids playing and popularity of the sport in the country. In 2012 for example, 4000 kids played handball at a nationwide tournament, in 2015 it was already 18,000, and in 2016 the ZRPR expected to have more than 20,000.
The hosting of the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 will also be fundamental to the next major handball event for the country. In 2023, Poland will be joint host of the Men’s World Championship with Sweden. A new national team will be built, and the popularity of the sport will continue, thanks in no small part to the success of EHF EURO 2016.