Following lengthy discussions and a thorough review by its Board, the British Handball Association has withdrawn its teams from competitions set to be held in the summer of 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, both in the United Kingdom and Europe.
At the beginning of last month (May 2021) all affected Great Britain team coaches were informed that the Board had agreed in principle not to send any Great Britain squad to a country not on the UK Government’s green travel list, but agreed to wait until later that month when the countries on the green list were to be confirmed.
Following the UK government announcement, the Board concluded that it was unlikely that any of the host countries would be added to the green travel list, despite the list being updated periodically, and that participation was not possible, so the decision was communicated to players, parents and guardians.
The teams and competitions affected include:
·Great Britain Men’s U18 (Youth): Men’s 18 EHF Championship 2021 (Bulgaria)
·Great Britain Women’s U17 (Youth): Women’s 17 EHF Championship 2021 (Lithuania)
·Great Britain Women’s U19 (Junior): Women’s 19 EHF Championship 2021 (North Macedonia)
This announcement follows an earlier decision not to enter the senior Great Britain men’s team into the 2024 EHF European Championship Qualification Tournament and the EHF cancelling the Men’s 20 EHF Championship 2021 last October.
In making its decision, the Board took into consideration the following:
·current UK Government advice and restrictions on travel, including return to UK
·COVID-19 situation in the host countries and the unknown nature of the pandemic currently
·mitigation plans required to minimise the risk whilst travelling to and from the championship and at the championship itself
·views of the coaching staff, players and parents
Speaking about the decision, British Handball Association Chair Paul Bray said:
“This was an incredibly difficult decision, but the right one under the circumstances. The health, welfare and safety of our young players and staff is our number one priority and responsibility, and we felt the risk of sending a large group was too high.
“We appreciate that this is a great disappointment to the players and staff, as much as it was to the Board, but we have had some positive developments recently with UK Sport funding and must look ahead to a bright future for the GB teams. This is a pause, not a full stop.”
The British Handball Association is one of a number of sporting governing bodies in Great Britain to have withdrawn their teams from younger age group competitions this summer, including British Basketball amongst others.