The qualification for 2014’s men’s championship in Denmark is still ongoing but for some countries the journey to 2016 in Poland is already at an end. Two of those countries are Great Britain and Ireland who both played their final matches in the process yesterday.
Ireland lost 36:12 in Belgium to finish bottom of the group that also features Estonia. Belgium must win by eight or more goals away in Estonia on Sunday to take the only qualifying spot in the group – any other result sees Estonia qualify for Stage 2. Like Ireland, Great Britain end with four losses but they can take some heart from turning around some very heavy defeats. Their first game (against Greece) saw them go down by 29 goals – this time out in Italy it was an 11 goal margin but was closer than that until very near the end. Steven Larsson top-scored in the match with 8 goals. Like Belgium, Italy now need to win away, this time by seven goals over Greece if they and not the Greeks are to progress.
Already through to the next stage are Finland who can use their last game, at home to Cyprus, to chillax and ponder the big guns waiting for them in stage 2.
Thanks to the good offices of the indefatigable Rena Fairbrother (find her on twitter, your handball life will be better) Handball Views is pleased to be able to present an interview with Holly Lam-Moores, British international and current Viborg HK player.
In the interview, Holly talks about the highs of the Olympics, the relative lows of what’s followed and her future plans, as well as her hopes for handball’s British future. It was recorded after the recent Esbjerg-Viborg game.
Apologies in advance to Alison Chowns, the splendid interviewer, and Holly herself but I can no more edit the file than you could find the stop button at the end of the interview.
Sadly, Handball Views‘ own application for the top position got lost in the post so England Handball, the body charged with increasing partipation for handball and in receipt of Sport England funding to do so, have had to make do with appointing David Meli to be their first ever CEO.
Meli was previously part of the National Governing Body Relationship Team at Sport England so the relationship between the two organisations should remain pretty stable now that he gone from gamekeeper to poacher.
England Handball’s goal over the next few years will be to build the participation levels for handball using the Olympics as a catalyst but also through growing the sport in schools and, hopefully, linking up with initiatives that will (for example) get more women and girls into sport generally. Handball being one of the more inclusive sports on the planet we should have good times ahead.
There’s more details and some quotes here.
It’s been a while since Handball Views caught up with how the Olympic Brits are getting on. At senior international level we know they’re basically busking on the underground to pay for travel and training for matches but for a happier picture our thoughts turn to Denmark.
Today sees Kelsi Fairbrother in action for Team Esbjerg against the girls in green of Viborg HK whose line-up includes Holly Lam-Moores.
After a pretty disastrouse Champions League run (10 losses from 10 games) Viborg are finding life a little easier domestically. They are tied for first spot with FC Midtjylland and 12 wins and a draw from their 13 matches. Esbjerg lie in fifth spot and when the two teams last met in the league in September it was a 26:18 win for Viborg.
The match starts at 6pm UK time. Viborg do a nice little app that allows you to follow games in real time so should you be, for example, stuck on a train following the match that way passes the time quite pleasantly. Beats Angry Birds anyway.
Was your favourite Olympic moment when you dialled up one of the extra BBC channels and looked at the medals table? If it was, then I pity you. You’re either the kind of person who sits at the end of the golf club bar talking about how we can still sock it to the foreigners – or you work for UK Sport.
UK Sport has one remit and it is a bizarre one. Its funding support is in the direction of winning medals of Olympics. Not world, European or commonwealth titles, not qualification for global events, not any other marker of sporting excellence or popularity. No, the only measure is Olympic success. So no funding for non-Olympic sports and no funding for sports that can’t guarantee medals.
That is why the Modern Pentathlon gets £7m because no other country seriously invests in it so setting up an ‘elite’ pathway pretty much guarantees a return when the world (i.e. Sue Barker on BBC1) is watching. That is why rowing is now the most significantly funded sport in their portfolio. Rowing. Now, I love watching the Coxless Fours gunning for glory. But I also know that the only kids – with only occasional significant Redgrave variation – who can access it belong to the fee-paying schoolchildren class. There’s also not such a huge number of countries that row seriously so – heh, presto! – medals.
But when you look at handball, basketball, water polo, volleyball and the like (even crowded athletics events like the 100m) then you realise these are globally popular sports will never come with that required guarantee. There’s only one gold available per gender after all. And whilst the British like to think they invented all the world’s sports (and now lose at them) that’s nowhere near being true. I don’t much care for basketball but it takes a special kind of insular Brit to believe it is only popular in the States despite that country’s lock on the gold medal. These sports are mostly straightforward to access and require very little in complicated equipment – they are open to all provided you can get a booking at the leisure centre.
Now, we turn to handball. I strongly believe that most people in this country still don’t get quite how popular handball actually is outside the English speaking world (I’m also coming to the opinion that a lot of international handball organisations themselves also don’t quite get it either but that’s by the by). So whilst we enjoyed the ride in the Copper Box at London 2012 and got to see the handball final live on terrestial TV I suspect some people (and all of UK Sport’s tedious bean counters) were wondering quite why Great Britain didn’t win a match. Just one measly match.
Handball has been here before, of course. Long before this jonny-come-lately started watching. There was no money for anything in 2005 and now we have significant investment from Sport England that will sustain the participation increase noted since before the Olympics which has accelerated since then. We’re not ever going to be as big as the game is across swathes of Europe but without support for internationals it’s difficult to see how we’re going to be able to properly test ourselves against them either.
And that’s where the UK Sport approach fails. It works rather brilliantly when you identify either a sport without mass global appeal (which applies to none of the Olympic team sports) or where investment in a handful of athletes can be all-but guaranteed to put you ahead of Australia in the medals table. But it can never work when its turning mass participation sports which are easy for kids to access into competitive and respected international opponents.
The downside to this year’s Olympics was the snide undertow of the otherwise wonderful patriotism that accompanied Team GB. Unfortunately it is that snide undertow that UK Sport are told to encourage and for which they must direct funding. By every measure they use their decision to withdraw all funding from handball was entirely correct; by everything that is magnificent about sport it was, to use Danny Baker’s phrase, the decision of soul-less pinheaded weasels.
Everyone knows the focus for UK Sport is on winning medals in Olympics. It’s why they pump tens of millions into modern pentathlon. And as there is, sadly, no realistic possibility of either the men’s or women’s Great Britain handball teams qualifying for Rio 2016 so there will be no elite level funding at all for handball from UK Sport.
The men’s team have already faced economic reality by paying their own way to Greece in a recent qualifer. The women’s team’s fate since the summer has been even harsher: no games played and none scheduled. It is hard to see how the situation for internationals is going to improve enough by the next funding cycle.
This doesn’t affect at all the Sport England money for participation and development but it does mean that if and when there is a solid body of players ready to step up to international level the journey for them has just become significantly harder.
England Handball has been spreading good cheer about the good game of handball via the medium of twitterbook. Given that UK Sport are soon to announce the results of their ‘no compromise’ approach to funding the international game (I think we can see how that will pan out) and Sport England are soon to release details of their participation approach to funding (a bit less clear), let’s have a look at the headline figures England Handball have been putting out:
- For the first time in the history of handball there are more than 1,000 registered handball players in England
- Once registrations are complete there will have been an 86% increase in the number of handball clubs in England since the Olympics
- Participation amongst schools at under 15 level is up 39%
These figures obviously exclude Scotland and there have also been positive tweets and the like from Ireland (but as I know nothing about the situation there I’ll refrain from commenting).
The hard work for a handball legacy is now under way.
For more information about England Handball see here.