With 45 of 47 matches played, the leadership of the European Handball Federation (EHF) and the Danish Handball Federation (DHF) summed up the Women’s EHF EURO 2020, which was organised under very special circumstances.
In his opening words of the closing press conference on Sunday, EHF President Michael Wiederer looked back on the timeline of the event from the awarding at the EHF Congress in 2014, to the first negotiations between the EHF and the Norwegian and Danish federations about limits on spectator numbers and financial matters, followed by the draw event and cancellations of venues in Oslo, Stavanger and Frederikshavn.
“When the Norwegian government and the Norwegian Handball Federation decided that they could not host their part of the event, it was outstanding how Denmark as an experienced organiser of major events managed to hold the whole event in one country in such a short time. Many, many thanks to the Danish Handball Federation and their President Per Bertelsen and their Secretary General Morten Stig Christensen,” Wiederer said.
Wiederer also passed on the “very positive responses” of all 16 participating federations to the Danish organisers.
“They really appreciated the tournament, which from all perspectives was a showcase for team sport events with all challenges and requirements. The hygiene concept worked perfectly: in the bubble we were able to manage the tournament. This was an extremely good example of the cooperation of a national federation with EHF.
“This EHF EURO was more than positive for our sport, we are really proud of that. Setting up a championship in this incredibly short time frame, including a second, completely new venue, was only possible because of the incredible amount of flexibility and experience shown by the Danish Handball Federation,” said Wiederer.
EHF Secretary General Martin Hausleitner was “extremely proud” about the cooperation of the 16 teams in the bubble.
“All of them stuck very closely to this hygiene protocol, though they had to stay three weeks more or less in the hotel and arena for matches and training. The athletes and teams showed an unbelievable discipline,” Hausleitner said.
From more than 6,000 Covid-19 tests among the players and team staff only three were positive – and they were taken before the teams entered the bubble.
Although no fans were allowed in the arenas, the fan interest was huge, as Hausleitner pointed out.
“We had excellent TV figures especially in Denmark and Norway, but also all over the world. Besides, our social media channels provided more content than ever before. One of our goals is to attract younger people, and we managed this for example on TikTok, where one of the EHF EURO clips was viewed more than seven million times,” Hausleitner said.
As in previous major EHF events, many types of modern technology were used to improve the game, such as data from Kinexon on players and the SELECT iBall, goal line technology, goal light technology and the video replay system, which was used 17 times before the final day.
Hausleitner thanked the EHF’s service partners as well as TV and marketing partner Infront for maintaining their cooperation in demanding times.
Per Bertelsen, President of the DHF, said he was “so proud” of the event itself, but mainly of the cooperation with the EHF, the Danish authorities, the cities and arenas in Herning and Kolding – and most of all for the “incredible support” from volunteers.
“We have been organising many championships in Denmark and since 1996 I am part of these organisations, but never before have I felt so proud of them. I also say thank you to all Danes who followed us on TV and social media. I am sure for Denmark, but also all European federations it was highly important that we managed to organise this championship,” Bertelsen said. He added: “All parties involved have shown that handball is a passion.”
EHF President Wiederer shared Bertelsen’s opinion.
“We learnt so much from this tournament, mainly how quickly an experienced organiser like Denmark can get ready. But for me another main lesson is that even top professional players were really eager to play handball again, like the motto of our campaign ‘back to handball’. This is the most important thing, that we all made it possible for them to play handball again,” he said.
For Morten Stig Christensen, Secretary General of the DHF, the event was a huge success, too, mainly in terms of fan interest and engagement despite the empty arena. He said there was a TV market share of up to 80 per cent for Danish matches and significant engagement with the Danish team on social media, and also pointed to the use of technology such as virtual media calls and the use of greenscreens by Danish TV station TV2 as successes.
Wiederer said the EHF EURO 2020 had taught lessons ahead of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 which will finish the 2019/20 season in Cologne on 28 and 29 December, although the hygiene concept would be implemented differently for that event.
The EHF will also share its experience with the International Handball Federation and organisers of the Men’ World Championship in Egypt, which starts on 13 January, mainly in terms of the challenges for participating federations.
Despite all the challenges caused by the pandemic, the EHF’s Hausleitner noted the importance of major championships such as the Women’s EHF EURO.
“With these top events we can engage fans from all countries. In December and January, we can create handball highlights and new role models and deliver our message for passion of this sport.”
“All together, we proved that it is possible to organise an event like this in such special situations and circumstances. I really hope other sports federations will follow this example of how we managed to present top handball in a safe environment,” concluded the DHF’s Stig Christensen.