It was an EHF EURO year… and an extraordinary business year; what better way to start (and end) the year than with star-studded celebrations of handball at the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia and the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 in France. The ‘even’ years are always full of excitement, and our handball community revelled in the many activities offered by the European Handball Federation over the past twelve months.
It was the year of the YACs… every year it is our pleasure to watch our champions of the future flourish on the international stage as the younger age category events play out in venues and on beaches across Europe. In 2018, we sent our players to the beaches of Ulcinj (MNE) and to venues in Gothenburg (SWE), Podgorica (MNE), Skopje (MKD), Celje (SLO), Tulln (AUT), Tbilisi (GEO) and Varaždin (CRO).
It was the year of education… with around 10 courses and seminars per year tailored for both indoor and beach handball, we can see the diligence applied in the classroom smoothly transferred to the court. The 2018 Master Coach and Licensing Course took place over three-modules in the cities of Poreč (CRO), Győr (HUN) and Paris (FRA); the importance of ensuring that our coaches, referees and delegates have the best tools at their disposal remains the topmost priority for our education unit, the EHF Competence Academy & Network.
It was the year of the gatherings… whether a large or small meeting, a high profile gala or simply a low-key business lunch, hundreds of meetings took place during 2018. However, the cities hosting the three final weekends of the club season, Budapest, Magdeburg, and Cologne, were the main meeting points for a ‘who’s who’ of European and international handball. The VELUX EHF FINAL4, the Women’s EHF FINAL4 and the Men’s EHF CUP Finals are magnetic events and the atmosphere surrounding the match weekends are enough to entice many visitors year on year. Another important gathering was the 2018 EHF Congress; over 150 people descended on the City of Glasgow, where business and pleasure mixed with a unique flair. The next major meeting will be held in Copenhagen in April 2019.
It was the year of the exceptional… a special press conference in Cologne in May 2018 signalled the start of a significant development that will steer the story of European handball in a new direction as of 2020. This year the EHF brought its tender process to an end with the signing of an agreement with Infront and DAZN Group for the period 2020 to 2030. Never in the history of the EHF has it embarked on such a special and complex journey that will have a lasting impact on the sport. We are extremely pleased to be moving forward with this partnership; work on the development project will continue throughout 2019.
It was a working year… for the needs to be changed to 85 member and 13 commissions, as well as the 61 professionals in the EHF and its daughter company EHF Marketing GmbH, it has been a very busy year. But with the usual dedication, skill and aplomb we have delivered an unforgettable year!
On behalf of the EHF Executive Committee, I wish to thank everyone who has contributed to our year of success. It is the unyielding contribution and cooperation of the federation’s stakeholders — from the clubs, to the leagues, the partners, the players, the media, the national federations, the officials, the referees and the dedicated team at the office in Vienna — that is intricately woven into our fabric of our achievements. As we propel ourselves into 2019, we expect another year of handball (un)like any other, and we are thoroughly looking forward to it!
In a fitting finale, the 47th and final match of the 2018 Women’s EHF EURO in France saw the host nation add the European title to the world title won one year previously, as a record-crowd of 14,060 ecstatic fans saw a dramatic final inside the sold-out AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
The 25th season of Europe’s premier handball club competition - the VELUX EHF Champions League - came to an end in May with a 32:27 win for Montpellier HB over their French rivals HBC Nantes in the final match of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2018, while the third French side in the competition, Paris Saint-Germain Handball took bronze with a 29:28 victory over the previous seasons’ winners, HC Vardar as the mega event again showed its ongoing strength.
Although hosts SC Magdeburg did not make it to the final after their semi-final defeat against Saint-Raphael on the first match day, the Ottostadt Magdeburg EHF Cup Finals created a brilliant atmosphere as Füchse Berlin celebrated the title. The competition was broadcast live in 13 countries and all matches and highlights of the action streamed live on ehfTV.com.
2018 was a busy year on the European beach scene: Poland hosted the ebt Finals, new U18 European champions were crowned in Montenegro and the Champions Cup was played in a new location for the first time – Catania in Sicily. New technologies and a social media campaign were also introduced.
2018 marked the first year that the new competition system for the EHF’s younger age category (YAC) competitions – introduced at the EHF Congress 2014 and partially in place since 2016 – was fully rolled out. Six events, the Men’s 20 and the Men’s 18 EHF EURO and two corresponding EHF Championships each, were played in July and August and the success was overwhelming – on and off the court.
Title sponsor of the VELUX EHF Champions League, the VELUX Group, continued with its ‘Let’s Play’ initiative to support youth handball across Europe through the donation of official VELUX EHF Champions League handballs. All youth teams in the 8-14 age groups were able to apply and VELUX received 3181 applications in the 2017/18 season via their website veluxhandball.com. All in all, a proud number of 8412 handballs were distributed to 701 teams in 45 countries.
Ahead of the start of the VELUX EHF Champions League season 2018/19, the EHF Marketing GmbH signed up Nord Stream 2 as a new premium sponsor. The contract between the two parties was signed for the duration of two seasons including the VELUX EHF FINAL4 as the competition’s benchmark event. It is not only giving Nord Stream 2 extensive exposure but also the opportunity to support the youth: tickets not taken by the company from their VIP contingent are given to each club’s youth department.
A new regional betting partner was found in Betano, a daughter brand of the leading betting operator Stoiximan. Throughout the season, the cooperation is targeted towards the German market where handball enjoys huge popularity. In addition to that, Betano became the official betting partner of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.
Regional partner Cashback World extended the successful cooperation with the VELUX EHF Champions League at the beginning of the season 2018/19. Part of this cooperation is the VELUX EHF FINAL4 Cashback Programme which was initially presented in 2017 and which offers handball fans attractive shopping benefits. Additionally, Champions League club HC Vardar initiated their very own Cashback Programme customised for their fans.
As part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4, the EHF Marketing GmbH organised the sport business event European Handball Talks. The topics brand management and community building in the digital age as well as digitalisation and technology in sport were part of the presentations. The line-up of speakers included Michael Wiederer, the EHF President, David Szlezak, Managing Director of EHF Marketing GmbH, as well as leading experts in brand, sponsorship and technology.
A brand new development for 2018 was the VELUX EHF FINAL4 Locker Room Show. Four handball stars from the participating teams met with ehfTV.com commentator Tom O’Brannagain in the unique locker room setting of the LANXESS arena. Handball fans were given the chance to ask their own questions via Facebook and Instagram which led to high engagement.
The pair started off their 2017/18 season ‘Road to the VELUX EHF FINAL4’ series with the Last 16 second leg match between Telekom Veszprém and Skjern Håndbold – a journey which eventually took them to Poland, Germany, Hungary (again) and France (twice) before arriving at the LANXESS arena and the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
Since the beginning of the 2018/19 season, they have featured on the competition’s social media platforms and on-site at the ‘Match of the Week’, bringing the audience courtside for exclusive chats with players, commentators and fans, while providing unique coverage of each round’s highlight match.
The role aims to increase awareness of women’s handball as a sport by focusing on Europe’s top-flight competition, the WOMEN'S EHF Champions League which Althaus won for the third time, with Györi Audi ETO KC in the 2017/18 season.
The former German international has been travelling across Europe to give fans a special peek behind the scenes where the magic happens and, accompanied by a mobile reporter, has provided experiences which money cannot buy, bringing fans into the locker rooms and onto the court.
Her road to Budapest for the WOMEN'S EHF FINAL4 on 11/12 May 2019 has already started with WOMEN'S EHF Champions League matches Györi Audi ETO KC vs. Thüringer HC and Metz Handball vs. Odense HC in November featured and more dates for 2019 to be announced.
The EHF presented the ‘EHF EURO Live Show’ every day direct from the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, together with LIDL, the official sponsor and fresh food partner of the championship - the first time in championship history that the EHF brought live news from the event to handball fans around the world.
Broadcasting from a TV studio in Zagreb, the show was streamed every day at midday on the EHF EURO Facebook and YouTube channels.
The show featured exclusive guests, coaches and players directly involved in the tournament, analyses of the matches, previews and in-depth features on participating teams and stars with fans encouraged to interact and become part of the show.
At the Women's EHF EURO 2018 in France, the EHF’s media team kept fans up to date through two online shows - EHF EURO Daily and EHF EURO Live - both streamed on social media.
Each new episode of EHF EURO Daily was posted on Facebook and YouTube. The show gave fans a flavour of the EURO host cities, recapped the previous day's matches and provided exclusive interviews with players.
Meanwhile fans could catch the EHF EURO Live on Twitter an hour before the first match of each day with predictions for the outcome of the games, a taste of the atmosphere of the arenas, and appearances from special guests.
ehfTV.com commentator O’Brannagain provided fans with last-minute insight into the VELUX EHF Champions League season and the matches at the VELUX EHF FINAL4, through the eyes of four stars representing each of the semi-finalists: Klein for Nantes, PSG’s Jesper Nielsen, Montpellier’s Vincent Gerard and HC Vardar’s Stojanche Stoilov.
The show was broadcast live from the locker rooms inside LANXESS arena across EHF Champions League social channels and also ehfTV.com.
Fans had the chance to put their own questions to the players by commenting on the official Facebook and Instagram channels.
The VELUX EHF FINAL4 saw all four matches played with a new, intelligent ball – the iBall – developed by the EHF’s official ball supplier, SELECT, and German tracking company, KINEXON, in a collaboration dating back to January 2016.
The new technology delivered unprecedented levels of insight into the sport, providing athletes, fans, media and sponsors the opportunity to see the game from completely new and fascinating angles via an integrated tracking chip which is able to capture real-time information such as ball speed, position of the shot and placement of the ball in the goal.
Fans watching the action live inside Cologne’s LANXESS arena, online or on TV had access to a variety of data in real-time through fanTV in the arena, television broadcasts or the event app, such as the speed of shots, the distance and position the shot was taken from, where the ball entered the goal and much more.
The ball had its second big outing at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 on the final weekend in Paris, making its debut in a national team competition.
Over 41 TV stations broadcast the weekend event to nearly 80 territories around the world with coverage complemented by ehfTV.com, and with 26 cameras as part of the setup, EHF Marketing GmbH took yet another giant step forward by offering an Ultra HD/4K signal in 3840x2160 pixels to TV partners, with stations in Denmark, Norway, Poland and Sweden becoming the first in the world to show the spectacle in the 4K resolution.
Fans following both competitions had opportunities to win exclusive prizes on a daily basis throughout the events via prize giveaways and innovative ‘Pulse’ features on the app, while those at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 had the chance play their own part in the entertainment programme, combining the app with their mobile phone in the ‘light-show’ feature which used a unique data-via-audio solution to enable spectators to become part of the opening shows ahead of each match.
At the FINAL4, the app offered fans in the arena and at home the chance to vote for the best players of the match, while in France, the ‘match predictor’ feature saw fans win points for guessing match winners, goal difference between teams and the exact match score with the overall winner on points at the end of the championship winning two tickets to the final of the Men’s EHF EURO 2020.
After being tested and used at major club events including the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, the EHF Cup Finals and the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden, instant replay made its Men’s EHF EURO debut at the 2018 edition in Croatia, with the technology further refined for the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 in France.
To make instant replay technology transparent for teams and spectators at France 2018 both in the arena and watching on TV, the EHF implemented four icons that were shown on screen to indicate why the situation in question was being reviewed: for goal line situations - to check whether a goal was scored or not; for disqualification; for substitution; and for use of the electronic team timeout request technology, known as a buzzer - a large red button at the end of each team bench, directly connected to the official scoreboard.
Once a coach requests a timeout by pressing it, the game clock stops, the goal-light lights up and an audio signal sounds to make all parties aware that a timeout has been requested.
The buzzer replaced the previously-used timeout cards and premiered in May at the Women’s EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, then followed at the Ottostadt Magdeburg EHF Cup Finals and VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne in the same month before France 2018 became the first EURO to feature it.
Goal-light technology itself was also upgraded in 2018 and the system now comprises of an LED tube – also connected to the game clock and timeout buzzer – positioned along the back perimeter of the goal in a rectangular shape, making the light more visible.
Referees, delegates and coaches are also assisted by the Digital ScoreSheet developed by Maxosystem. Available online and as an app, the tool provides videos clips and match action for further analysis.
Linked to match data, the automatic system analyses a total of 71 situations, including 35 specifically for coaches and 17 for referees and delegates. Coaches are also able to tag specific situations and use this content during the match to show players and explain specific issues.
The tool is currently in use in the EHF Champions League and EHF EURO final tournaments.
At the FINAL4 the app allowed fans in the arena and at home the chance to vote for the best players of the match, while in France, the ‘match predictor’ feature saw fans win points for guessing match winners, goal difference between teams and the exact match score with the overall winner on points at the end of the championship winning two tickets to the final of the Men’s EHF EURO 2020.
WSC Sports' platform generates personalised sports videos for every platform and every sports fans — automatically and in real-time - utilising advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to analyse live sports broadcasts, identifying each and every event that occurs in the game to create customised short-form video content with the ability to publish to any digital destination.
This enables partners such as the EHF to instantly generate and distribute these professionally-edited personalised clips and videos on a large scale, to engage audiences and maximise video monetisation opportunities.
At the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 in France, examples included in-game highlights directly posted to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram; game clips to EHF EURO Instagram stories; videos in both square and 16:9 format; GIF generation; and auto-generation of highlights including game recaps, top plays of the day/group/stage, top saves, top goals, individual player highlights and team highlights to YouTube, the official app and website.
“The Women’s EHF EURO 2018 marked further significant progress in the digital capabilities of the EHF,” said Martin Hausleitner, Secretary General of the EHF.
"The introduction of artificial intelligence technology is a first in handball and enables us to reach and engage many more fans through personalised video content.”
The Tel Aviv-based WSC Sports has grown from 13 employees to 70 over the past two years in order to help satisfy an expanding and impressive client list which also includes the NBA league office, all 30 NBA teams, Turner Sports, MLS, the PGA Tour, the Stadium digital network, FIBA, Cricket Australia, the World Surf League and the US Open tennis tournament.
In December 2018 they won the prestigious SportTechie ‘Outstanding Sports Technology for 2018’ award. The awards highlight the teams, executives, sports technologies, venues, investors and leaders that most deserve recognition for their work in pushing the industry forward.
In 2018 the European Handball Manager degree course continued its growth with the third edition ending and fourth edition starting. 19 participants in the 2017/18 intake successfully received certificates for their studies in the degree course jointly organised by the EHF and the German Sports University Cologne.
The inaugural EHF Grassroots Market, took place at the impressive Maison du Handball in Créteil on the fringes of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 in France. Focusing on initiatives to encourage more people to start playing handball, the event shed light on the grassroots of the sport and asked the question...
In April, the EHF launched the Mentoring of Coaches in Women’s Youth Handball project as part of its continued efforts to develop women’s handball in Europe in general. Up to six EHF member federations with a Women’s Younger Age Category (YAC) ranking from 13-24th place, valid for the Women's EHF EURO 2019, and focussing on coaches working with female players 12-18 years old were targeted for an initial first two years.
On the fringes of the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 in Poreč, Croatia, 650 coaches from across Europe attended the 2018 EHF Master Coach Course which was split into three groups including 40 EHF Master Coaches renewing their licences over four days and 44 EHF Master Coach candidates facing an eight-day module.
16 young coaches from across Europe aged 33 or younger descended upon the southern Polish city of Szczyrk in June for the 2018 EHF Young Coaches Workshop. All coaches had basic education and experience in handball coaching coming into the six-day workshop which was split into theory and practical parts.
The first module was conducted through e-learning and focussed on how the EHF European Cup/European Championship Qualification regulations can be implemented in the best way and how they can help national events, event management, media management, social media, best practice examples and the latest trends in marketing.
In May 2017, the EHF, in partnership with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) and professional clubs IK Sävehof (SWE), Club Fenix Toulouse (FRA) and Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP) – as project leaders – launched Handball 4 Dual Careers (H4DC), a 30-month project collaboration.
In Paris ahead of the final matches of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018, the EHF Executive Committee approved major changes to the international calendar from the start of the 2020/21 season based on proposals developed by a special taskforce, comprising representatives of stakeholders.
European club handball will have a new look from the 2020/21 season onwards and a regular television slot in Europe for top-class handball will become reality after proposals for a revamp of the European club system were agreed in Paris at the EHF Executive Committee meeting.
2020 is set to see handball transformed as a new, 10-year, EUR 500-600 million deal will commence between the EHF, its marketing arm EHF Marketing GmbH, DAZN Group and Infront which will bring in not only a significant financial investment, but also industry-leading know-how, expertise and services.
Infront, a leading sports marketing company, has worked with the EHF since the first EURO in 1994 and has shaped the tournament into one of the biggest national team sports events in the world.
“Infront's history with the EHF goes back over two decades and, in that time, we have both helped create a legacy for the EHF EUROs, solidifying it as one of Europe's top sporting events,” said Julien Ternisien, Infront Vice President Summer Sports.
“The potential for handball to expand its fan base to new and younger audiences is an exciting prospect and we have already started working on delivering content to that audience with our recent work at the Women's EHF EURO 2018.
“We see value in the traditional broadcast model and we will continue to pursue those opportunities, however, it will be complemented by digital services and ensuring fans are consuming events through the mediums that suit them best. We have already introduced a number of innovations, including video editing using artificial intelligence and a more intelligent use of online influencer networks.
“Our focus is to deliver handball to new and potential fans wherever they want to view it and to help activate sponsors through the most lucrative channels.”
More information: infrontsports.com
DAZN Group is a global sports media company, based in the United Kingdom, operating across a range of areas. It partners with the biggest rights holders to help them commercialise and grow their sports around the world. DAZN runs some of the biggest digital sports platforms and streams sports content directly through DAZN, the unique on-demand service, giving fans the power of choice.
“We are delighted with our long-term partnership with the EHF and have been working alongside our partners at Infront to set the foundations to maximise value for the EHF and expand its global fanbase,” said Bruno Rocha, Executive Vice President of Global Rights Partnership, DAZN.
“We see this agreement as a unique opportunity to shape the future of handball on a club and national team level and grow the sport among new audiences across all markets.
“The key opportunity lies in the development of innovative, fan-first products that deliver premium content through an array of touch points and drive consumption across all platforms,” he continued.
“For that reason, we have been working intensely in areas such as production, new media distribution and digital products, focusing on a forward-thinking initiatives that will provide more ways for fans to consume EHF content – we can wait to start delivering strong results.”
More information: performgroup.com
2022 is the first time either nation will host a senior Men’s EHF EURO despite both having experience of hosting numerous handball events, including Hungary co-hosting a Women’s EHF EURO with Croatia in 2014.
Both capital cities will be used in 2022: the 14,000 — capacity Papp László Sportaréna in Budapest (HUN) — which has hosted the Women’s EHF FINAL4 since 2013/14 — and 12,500 — capacity Ondrej Nepela Aréna in Bratislava (SVK).
The 8,350 — capacity Steel Aréna in Košice (SVK), the 6,500 — capacity Főnix Hall in Debrecen, the upgraded 8,143-capacity Pick Aréna in Szeged and the upgraded 8,469 — capacity Veszprém Arena will also be used.
Fans attending will feel the themes of ‘youth’ and ‘festival’ with tickets not just limited to the matches being played, but to public transportation, entry to concerts, famous spas and fan zones from the morning until night in regionally-flavoured events.
The joint bid also recognised the easy accessibility of the tournament for over 152 million people in less than 120 minutes via air, train, car or boat.
The 2016 European Green Capital, Ljubljana (SLO), will see matches at the 12,480-capacity Arena Stozice, while the 2,000-year old Macedonian capital Skopje will host games in its 6,173-capacity Boris Trakovski Arena.
Slovenia’s second venue is the home of VELUX EHF Champions League team RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, the 5,800-capacity Arena Zlatorog in Celje, with the home of the all-conquering Women’s EHF Champions League side Buducnost, the famous 5,000-capacity Moraca Hall in Podgorica (MNE), the final venue.
For the host countries, the Women’s EHF EURO 2022 will contribute to the long-term mission of enhancing the brand and image of women’s handball in general, with the ‘We Can Handball’ campaign.
Proposed initiatives include: ‘We Teach Handball’, which aims to use handball to promote inclusion of sport in young people’s everyday lives, ‘We Care Handball’, a global community outreach initiative addressing important social issues and ‘We Work Handball’, featuring workshops around the championship led by lecturers and representatives of the EHF Women’s Handball Board (WHB).
‘We Support Handball’, focuses on sponsors and partner companies and ‘We Travel Handball’, will be a social media push from the three host national teams to highlight interesting insights into the journeys the players make to their games.
Venues include the opening match to be held at the 50,000+ spectator Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena – and a potential world record-breaking crowd for handball, the Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin, the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, the TUI Arena in Hanover, the SAP Arena in Mannheim, the Olympic Hall in Munich and the LANXESS Arena in Cologne.
Since 2010, the LANXESS arena has hosted the VELUX EHF FINAL4, and four times (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018), German cities have also organised EHF Cup Finals.
Hamburg has been the venue for the German Cup finals for the past 20 years while Germany has also successfully hosted the record-breaking 2007 IHF Men’s World Championship, the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship, and is set to co-host the 2019 IHF Men’s World Championship, alongside Denmark.
In total, up to 750,000 spectators will be able to attend matches at the handball-crazy country which has more than 750,000 active players playing in more than 10,000 handball clubs.
Germany 2024 will be the first EHF EURO with 24 teams hosted by one country – continuing the history of ‘firsts’ for the German Handball Federation (DHB) and the EUROs, after the DHB hosted the first-ever Women’s EHF EURO, back in 1994.
“With large arenas, top notch infrastructure and, last but not least, a loyal handball fanbase, Germany has what it takes to again be a welcoming host for an international tournament,” said Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany.
For many people and indeed organisations such as the EHF, the end of the year is a time to take stock, to consider the many achievements of the year but also an opportunity to look to the year ahead and consider what the future holds. In all of these respects, 2018 was clearly an exceptional year for the EHF: key decisions were reached and there were important developments that will shape the long-term future of the sport.
The signing of the new 10-year agreement with Infront and DAZN in May was a watershed moment. In financial terms, it is the biggest deal in the history of the sport but this is only part of the story. Our new partners bring industry-leading know-how, expertise and extensive services to our sport – Infront, as one of the world’s leading international sports marketing companies, and DAZN Group, as a global leader in digital media – and we have set ourselves ambitious targets for growth that are set to transform the sport.
Ahead of the start of the new contract in 2020 there is a huge amount of preparation work to be done to ensure that the federation and its structures are ready for this new challenge. In December, we announced new competition formats for Europe’s top club competitions as well as changes to the international calendar that will ensure more rest and time for regeneration between seasons for Europe’s top players from 2020/21. A possible expansion of the Women’s EHF EURO from 16 to 24 teams, in line with the men’s event, is also under consideration.
Digital will play in an important role in the future of the EHF. We have already achieved a great deal with the creation of on-court technologies such as instant replay, goal-line technology and the new time-out buzzer. The Women’s EHF EURO in France also saw the launch of a new app and the first use of artificial intelligence in the creation of video content. There is much more work to be done and the next 12 months will bring further developments include the implementation of a new digital match report across all competitions.
We finished 2018 on a high at the Women’s EHF EURO in Paris and are now looking forward to the EHF’s next major events including the 10th edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in June 2019, a Beach EURO over the summer and the first Men’s EHF EURO with 24 teams in January 2020.
Yours in sport,