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.

Summer of Handball YACs

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.

On 29 July, Slovenia claimed gold on home ground at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO in Celje. Slovenia’s 31:30 win against France was not only witnessed by 5,000 spectators in a jam-packed Zlatorog Arena. On top, 25,000 watched the final live on TV (Sport Klub) plus another 18,000 on ehfTV.

The final was the top match on ehfTV, while the highest TV figures were recorded for matches involving Croatia, with 122,000 fans each (market share 5%) watching the main round match Croatia vs Portugal on 25 July and the placement match Croatia vs Spain on 28 July.

“These figures underline the huge popularity of our summer events in the younger age categories,” said EHF President Michael Wiederer.

“The fans at the matches and in front of their TVs not only witnessed great handball, they also saw our sport’s future stars taking the court.”

For the first time, Men’s 20 EHF Championships were played in Montenegro and FYR Macedonia, with more success for the respective hosts in place.

In Skopje, FYR Macedonia won ‘their’ EHF Championship following a 29:23 win against Belarus in front of 1,200 fans, while Montenegro claimed bronze with 29:23 win against Latvia. First place in Podgorica went to Czech Republic, who beat Austria 27:17.

Following the end of the M20 events, Europe’s under 18 generation of internationals took the courts at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO in Croatia and the Men’s 18 EHF Championships in Austria and Georgia.

Over 140,000 people followed the live matches of the M18 EHF EURO on ehfTV, with more than 13,000 watching the final in which Sweden beat Iceland 32:27. Hosts Croatia came fourth as they lost the bronze medal match against Denmark, 26:24.

Special importance was on the Men’s 18 EHF Championships as the respective winners would advance to the Men’s 18 and Men’s 20 EHF EURO level in 2020.

Austria used their home advantage in Tulln to beat Czech Republic 23:17. On a side note, the same nations had also met at the M20 EHF Championship Final in Montenegro one month earlier.

In Georgia, Italy beat Belarus 31:26 to become the second team to be promoted. On the other hand, Poland and Romania will have to play the M20 and M18 EHF Championships in 2020, as they finished 15th and 16th respectively at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO.

“All six events were organised on a high level, providing a great platform to showcase our sport.

This proves that the decision EHF Congress took four years ago was a good one, and the EHF is looking forward to the Women’s 19 and 17 EHF EUROs and the corresponding EHF Championships next year,” continued Wiederer.

The success of the younger age category events was not only limited to the European level, as also the Women’s 20 World Championship in Hungary and the Women’s 18 World Championship in Poland, both organised under the umbrella of the International Handball Federation, proved hugely successful.

Hungary won the Women’s 20 World Championship (28:22 against Norway) in front of 6,500 fans in the Fonix Sports Hall in Debrecen, with the entire event producing TV figures ‘far beyond anyone’s expectation’ according to the Hungarian organisers.

Hungary almost reached the ‘double’ one month later, but Russia spoiled their party and beat them in the final of the Women’s 18 World Championship in Kielce, Poland, 29:27 in front of 2,500 fans.