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. 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.
Over 41 TV stations broadcast the event to more than 80 territories around the world with every second of the action live on ehfTV.com. The TV production featured a 26-camera set-up, including in-goal and bench cameras and a noteworthy new development: the first ever TV production in 4K UHD in European indoor sport. Offering a much better resolution to TV viewers, the 4K production offered fans at home the opportunity to enjoy not only the handball but also the shows and surrounding spectacle in a previously unmatched picture definition.
Further technology innovations including the first implementation of the iBall, with the new tracking technology introduced after an intensive testing phase. The first-ever handball Hackathon also took place in Cologne, as part of the Handball Business Talks, focusing on brand creation and digitalisation.
Fans also flocked to Cologne once again in their tens of thousands, with the Managing Director of EHF Marketing GmbH, David Szlezak, highlighting the continued success of the event at the closing press conference: “We are proud to receive the sold out award for the ninth time at the ninth edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL4,” he said.
Stefan Lövgren, a former Champions League winner with THW Kiel, who was the official ambassador of the event in its early years and is now a member of the EHF Executive Committee, also commented: “Looking back on the last 25 years and even when only looking upon the time since the FINAL4 was implemented in 2010, everything underwent so many great changes and a huge development. The Champions League is reaching a much broader audience now, not only those, who are in the arena, but all over the world, watching the matches. This is not comparable to the past. The Champions League and the FINAL4 definitely took huge steps forward.”
Such is the success of the VELUX EHF FINAL at the LANXESS arena that the EHF and EHF Marketing GmbH, organiser of the VELUX EHF FINAL4, once again confirmed Cologne’s status as the home of top-class international club handball by signing a new deal December. The agreement with the City of Cologne, LANXESS arena and federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia will see the event return to the city for a further four events, starting in the 2020/21 season.
Its unique blend of top-class sports action and spectacular entertainment makes the two-day mega event a meeting place for everybody connected to the sport and the end of this current season will also see a major milestone celebrated with the 10th edition to be played on 1/2 June 2019.
“Cologne is a special place for everybody in European club handball,” said EHF President Michael Wiederer. “Every top player dreams of playing in Cologne, the event is a must-visit for every handball fan and Cologne has become a meeting place for a ‘who’s who of international handball’ year after year.
“This sports city offers the perfect conditions for the organisation of the FINAL4: a central location in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, where handball is hugely popular, and a venue – the LANXESS arena – which ranks as one of, it not the, best handball arenas in Europe.
“The renewal of the contract with the City of Cologne, LANXESS arena and also the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia was a natural choice and we look forward to celebrating not only 10 years of the EHF FINAL4 in 2019 but also the 15-year anniversary in 2024.”
David Szlezak, Managing Director of EHF Marketing GmbH, said: “The FINAL4 has already established itself as the leading sports event on the European indoor sports market since its launch back in 2010. “This is thanks, in no small part, to the long-term partnerships we have developed with trusted partners including the City of Cologne, LANXESS arena, North Rhine-Westphalia and our local partner, Stadionwelt.
“This is thanks, in no small part, to the long-term partnerships we have developed with trusted partners including the City of Cologne, LANXESS arena, North Rhine-Westphalia and our local partner, Stadionwelt.
He continued: “This new contract from the season 2020/21, parallel to the start of our new media and marketing contract, offers us the opportunity take the FINAL4 in a completely new level and further improve on what we have already achieved with this flagship handball event.“