Following the announcement (https://britishhandball.com/news/british-handball-...) last week of the appointment of Chris Smith as the new British Handball Association (BHA) Independent Chair of the Board of Directors, outgoing Chair Paul Bray has formally stepped down.
Originally appointed in April 2015, Bray leaves his voluntary position after almost eight years at the helm with BHA Board members permitted to serve a maximum of two four-year terms in one position.
The announcement marks an end to a 40-year association with the British Handball Association for Bray, who first joined as a volunteer Press and Publicity Officer in 1982.
In his role as Chair, Bray oversaw a board made up of members from the England Handball Association (EHA) and Scottish Handball Association (SHA), as well as independent directors.
One of his first jobs as Chair was to implement a Great Britain national teams programme which now features six men’s and women’s youth, junior and senior teams in competitive action. Many of those players are now with professional or semi-professional handball clubs across Europe.
Since the establishment of those six teams, British sides have now competed in 20 official European Handball Federation (EHF) and International Handball Federation (IHF) competitions. They have enjoyed success since, reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 IHF Men's Emerging Nations Championship, the final of the 2018 M18 IHF Trophy and winning the 2022 M20 IHF Trophy.
This increased activity and success, much of which took place during the global Covid-19 pandemic, allowed British Handball to negotiate a significant partnership with global sports brand hummel.
After implementing a restructure of the board in 2016, Bray oversaw, along with fellow Director Lucy McClements, the upgrading of governance procedures which ultimately saw British Handball pass a 2020 UK Sport audit.
This paved the way for a successful funding application, from a bid team led by Bray, for the UK Sport 2021-2024 National Squads Support Fund (https://britishhandball.com/news/british-handball-...) in March 2021.
It marked the end of a successful four-year campaign where Bray, both individually and with other unfunded sports and board members, lobbied government, opposition politicians and UK Sport to change the funding model to support sports like handball.
The funding received by British Handball from UK Sport was the first since the London 2012 Olympic Games, something Bray has described as the “greatest achievement” during his tenure and credits board members Anna Garside and Lucy McClements, together with British Handball coaches Ricardo Vasconcelos, Bill Baillie and Paul Dempsey as playing a key role in securing the funding.
In addition, support has also been secured from the IHF and EHF. Most recently, this allowed the British men’s and women’s senior teams to participate on the global stage.
The men travelled to Finland to participate in the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship – Qualification Europe tournament in November 2021. A year later the women’s side competed in the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship – Qualification Europe, their first official competition since London 2012.
Speaking on his departure, outgoing Chair Paul Bray said:
“Now is a suitable moment to make way for someone with new ideas and energy as the sport continues to grow in our country. It was a difficult decision to step down after almost eight years in the role, but I can look back on my time as Chair with pride and satisfaction.
“When I was appointed, there was no Great Britain national team programme, no UK Sport funding, no functioning board structure or governance overview, no sponsorship and our online and media presence was almost non-existent.
“In 2023 we now have six Great Britain squads that have competed in numerous IHF, EHF and friendly competitions, we have secured UK Sport Funding until 2024 and have also successfully negotiated the renewal of our IHF New Markets funding until 2025, one of only three countries to receive this funding globally.
“Everyone connected to British Handball is a volunteer. Whatever the role, we have – together – faced up to huge challenges, burning the midnight oil on many occasions and it has been exhausting.
“But it has been hugely rewarding. I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing people who are truly inspiring individuals and together, we have achieved great results.
“First of all, I would like to thank all the board members, team officials, players, their families and friends that I have worked with during my time as Chair for their ongoing support with our largely self-funded programmes.
“I would like to personally thank the IHF and its President, Dr Hassan Moustafa, for their continued support, which has been critical to allow our young age category teams to participate in official competitions, and allowed the EHA and SHA to expand their grassroots programmes.
“I would also like to express my personal thanks to Paul Goodwin and Warp Media who developed the British Handball website in 2015 and continue to manage it for us, as well to our volunteer media advisor Andrew McSteen, both of whom I have worked very closely with over many years.
“I am sad to leave but feel secure in the knowledge that I leave British Handball in good shape and ready to face the challenges ahead.
“I wish Chris Smith and the board every success for the future and trust they will drive forward with British Handball and the Great Britain teams to deliver the success they deserve.”
From everyone connected with British Handball we thank Paul for his service and wish him well going forward.