It has been well over a year since I was appointed Chairman and the focus these past months has been on our UK Sport funding submission for the Tokyo Olympic cycle which, unsurprisingly, but still disappointingly, was unsuccessful. The fact that sports such as Badminton and Wheelchair rugby were also unsuccessful, despite meeting their targets in Rio, speaks volumes to the challenge we face. Nevertheless we continue to campaign through UK Sport and the government to try and secure some form of funding. Throughout our campaign I have stressed that British Handball could establish a programme with as little as one-third of one percent of UK Sport’s Performance Budget, not an unreasonable amount we felt to break the vicious circle we find ourselves in every four years.
In the meantime we have worked on redrafting the Articles of Association which have now been adopted. British Handball has two members, the England and Scottish Handball Associations, and as such these two organisations have two seats each on the Board, Mike Briers and David Meli for the EHA and Chris McManus and Stevie Neilson for the SHA, and together we have run the Board on a caretaker basis for the past 15 months. However I am keen to establish a balanced board and therefore we will now be recruiting three new Independent Directors, with specific skills (Finance; Performance and Marketing/Commercial), to join the Board. If you are interested and have the required skills, look out for the notice!
Our goal was to re-establish or strengthen our GB national teams at senior and age group levels and we are well on our way to achieving this. We have GB men’s and women’s senior programmes, as well as a girls U17 and boys U19 and U21 teams. The U17 girls and U19 boys benefit from a small IHF/IOC grant to off-set some of their costs, but I am mindful that in the current BHA financial landscape, these are largely self-funded programmes and I am grateful to the staff, as well as the players and their parents for their support. In addition, last year we re-established the BHA Performance group to oversee national team and elite coaching activities.
There have been a number of changes in EHF/IHF competitions with the creation of the bi-annual IHF Trophy for U21 men, which GB participated in last Summer, while this June the IHF will again run the men’s Emerging Nations Championship (effectively a ‘B’ World Championship), which we will also attend. These are accessible to us because the IHF pays all the costs for the visiting teams and this is a huge positive step on their part. I cannot stress enough how important these competitions are for all our players’ development and we are lobbying the IHF and EHF to establish similar competitions for women. This summer will also see our U17 girls team participate in the European Championship (Division 2) in Lithuania, while the U18 boys played in a similar competition last summer in Georgia.
Sadly we are still unable to enter senior men’s and women’s European and World Championship qualifiers because of the risk of being drawn to host a qualification tournament and bankrupting the association. However we have had discussions with several UK cities and venues about their willingness to host and finance a home event and we hope that this may be the solution going forward.
With the big sports often struggling to secure sponsorship, our own task is made all the more difficult by our lack of performance funding. Nevertheless we have been very fortunate to sign a Digital & Design partnership agreement with Warp Design, who developed our website. We are also in discussions with other suppliers and hope to secure further in-kind support in the near future.
There is a lot more happening, but I think this is long enough for now. I will use the BHA web to communicate with you again. In the meantime I am always happy to discuss any ideas or concerns you may have, so never hesitate to stop and talk to me when you see me at various events around the country, or drop me a note.
Chairman, British Handball