“Premier Handball League is not an important topic for EHF”
June 8, 2016
Sascha Staat’s Interview with EHF’s Michael Wiederer – Part 2
Q: Let’s move on to the next topic: Have you been in contact with people that are behind the idea of the Premier Handball League (PHL) and, if so, what are your plans reacting to this challenge? My guess is, the issue is an important one for the EHF as well?
A: No, it’s not an important topic within the EHF. We have heard about the idea of a private league from various media outlets and from statements that were made by club officials. There’s no official or informal communication between the PHL and us. As an institution we (the EHF) have to take care of the entire handball system and we don’t think that it makes any sense to create such a private league that follows caters to the interest of a handful of people.
Q: It’s difficult for me to understand how seriously you take the PHL You are not concerned at all?
A: It (the PHL) doesn’t create any particular concerns. It’s a normal development, but you shouldn’t forget that the EHF has developed into a well-structured institution over the past 25 years. Actually, it’s a fact of economic development that somebody comes up with new ideas. But we have to take care about handball in total and not just some small parts of the sport.
Q: Were you surprised nonetheless when Peter Vargo informed you about switching sides?
A: There’s no information from Peter Vargo that he will be part of this project – to the contrary. We asked him various times before he was released but he denied the move.
Q: Doesn’t it surprise you at all, how it all turned out?
A: When somebody has worked for a company or institution for 25 years and worked his way up to the level of managing director at EHF Marketing, then it’s an interesting aspect. But until June 30th he’s on the payroll of the EHF and I won’t comment on it any further.
Q: You have decided to expand the men’s EHF EURO to include 24 teams and – in the case of the event in 2020 – host the competition in three different countries. First of all, a good number people are afraid of the (potentially) inferior quality of so many games, secondly for fans it will be quite expensive to become part of the tournament. Such circumstances were unavoidable?
A: When we organized the first ever EHF EURO in 1994, just twelve teams took part. The EHF had 31 members at the time. But the split-up of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union created a lot of new members – now we have more than 50. In 2002 we expanded the competition to 16 teams and the same question was asked back then. But when we take a look at all the participants, about 75 percent of them are taking part since the very first EHF EURO. Only some new nations are taking part in the competition every now and then.
Many of the smaller countries were thinking: Why should we even take part in the qualification? So you have to see it in the overall context. In the youth system, we changed the method of qualification and suddenly, instead of 35 nations, 43 nations were taking part. It shows that these nations want to take part. And it’s their only chance to improve. They need the competition against better teams.
In the past there was a cut after the first 12 teams, which took part all the time. Then we had another cut from 13 to 16 and from 17 to 24. The rest was too far away from qualifying for the final tournament. Now, the cut will be implemented at 16, then from 17 to 24 and another one from 25 to 32. So the middle-ranked teams are more motivated to invest into their junior squads-, into home games and into the development of the sport in their country.
Hosting the EHF EURO in three countries was a consequence of that decision. We wanted to expand the tournament in 2022, but we had three candidates for the 2020 tournament, Sweden, Norway and Austria. All of them had experience as hosts. The three federations made their calculations and in the end they concluded that it would makes a lot of sense, to jointly host the tournament.
Coming back to your initial question – it doesn’t mean that fans cannot plan their trips. Our experience is that fans aren’t going to Poland for 14 days, for example. We have a group of fans attending the group phase, and they will be able to plan for it. The same holds true for the group of fans attending the main round as well as the final weekend.
Q: You announced your candidacy for the EHF presidency in August. Why?
A: I’m coming from a national federation. I know the structure of an institution like the EHF extremely well. I’m part of the EHF as the general secretary from the beginning when we started with two chairs, two desks and two telephones. I worked with three different presidents, one from Sweden, one from Norway and, currently, one from France. I know what you have to do as a president.
The fact that the age limit wasn’t lifted has caused a new situation as well. That’s why I decided to put my name on the list of candidates.
Q: Have you put one or two points on your personal agenda already, in case you get elected?
A: It’s difficult to give you the correct answer. First of all the election is a democratic process of the 50 member nations. I can’t expect it to become a shoo-in. And we shouldn’t forget that 61 positions will be up for election at the Congress. So, it’s much more complex than a lot of people might imagine.
Regarding positioning – I’m very careful because I don’t want to start an election campaign. I think we moved in the right direction over the past years. And we have to continue that way. We can’t use our resources to manage crisis, but we have to use our funds to develop and improve handball further.
We also have to improve both club- and national team competitions. That’s probably the most important point – so that players, who want to play for their respective national teams, but are paid by their clubs, are satisfied.
Another key point are the women’s competitions, that have stepped into the background a little bit. We pushed the men’s Champions League
, and you can see the results of the work at the men’s EURO; but it’s also necessary to push the women’s tournaments along, now that the men’s competitions are on track.