​Update from the Chair of the British Handball Association

Post published May 12, 2020 (Updated May 12, 2020)

First of all, I would like to extend to everyone affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak, wherever they are in the world reading this, the very best wishes on behalf of everyone connected with the British Handball Association (BHA) and I also extend those wishes to everyone currently living through these truly challenging times.

I am sure you will join me in expressing my admiration and gratitude to the NHS and healthcare staff and key workers, many among our own handball community, who continue to do such an exceptional job in these circumstances.

I have been impressed by the great response of the wider handball community to the COVID-19 crisis, with many uplifting and inspirational stories emerging through social media and other forms of communication – the support that has been offered is heartening.

I would also like to commend the EHA and SHA for reaching out to their members with online seminars and other creative initiatives.

I look forward to seeing more of this as we negotiate the weeks and months ahead and, through our various media channels, we will aim to share as much as we can.

During these past few weeks, as usual, we have kept in touch with our stakeholders at UK Sport, the International Handball Federation (IHF), the European Handball Federation (EHF) and, of course, the England Handball Association (EHA) and Scottish Handball Association (SHA). I would like to extend my thanks to all of them for their varying forms of crucial support.

However, like any organisation in Britain, the BHA finds itself faced with many unexpected and unprecedented situations, and we are having to find solutions for the new issues that are emerging.

As an almost entirely voluntary organisation we have been relying on the help and work of many people to get through these months in which much has happened.

Since my last update, a number of our teams have been in action across Europe, including the debut of our GB Women’s U17 on the international stage, when they played in Serbia last September, while our U17 men’s team also made their debut, at the 2019 EHF Men’s 17 European Open in July. Our senior men’s team finished fourth in June at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship in Georgia, while our women’s U19 team were in Bulgaria for the EHF Women’s 19 Championship.

In addition to our teams, we also had a number of officials and delegates representing Great Britain on the world handball stage.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak has meant that handball competitions around the world have ground to a halt and we are no exception here in Great Britain.

The EHA has already announced that it has voided this current season while, as I write, the SHA are discussing what to do with their season, with a decision to be announced shortly.

In addition, and following consultation with the EHA and SHA, the BHA has taken the necessary decision to cancel this season’s British play-offs, originally scheduled for June.

This means that further discussions will be held about how we allocate the three places Great Britain has been given in the new format of the EHF European Cup (formerly the Challenge Cup) which starts next season.

The EHF has made numerous decisions relating to its club and national championships including making the sensible decision of postponing this summer’s M18 and M20 EHF Championships until January 2021. While this is disappointing for the GB teams, which had been preparing and training hard, it was the right decision by the EHF to put the health of players and staff first.

The IHF has also made many changes to its competition schedule and we will wait to hear about plans for the M18 and M20 IHF trophies in the autumn.

And, of course, the big news was the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games for one year. Again, this also the right thing to do, but it does have an impact on the BHA, notably around the bidding process for UK Sport funding in the 2021-2025 cycle.

From an organisational point of view, last October we appointed Anna Garside as a new Board Director with responsibility for performance activities. Anna has been excellent since she joined and is a fantastic addition to the BHA, a role she holds in addition to that as Head of Performance for British Showjumping.

For the past few months we have been working incredibly hard on the UK Sport bid, a process which is clearly designed for large governing bodies with full time staff.

For an organisation such as ours, it is hugely complex and demanding, but we have had some great input from our GB coaches, Ricardo Vasconcelos and Bill Baillie, and I would particularly like to thank Anna and fellow BHA Board Member Lucy McClements who have done a huge amount of work on this. We have several stages still to negotiate and, if we manage this, a final decision will be taken by UK Sport in December. However, we must not underestimate the magnitude of the challenge we face.

I would like to remind everyone that we are always interested in hearing any feedback, queries, suggestions, news or hearing from players who may qualify to play for us. Please tag us in any social media posts #gbhandball or email us at office@britishhandball.com.

Finally, I encourage you all to continue following the latest UK Government Guidelines relating to COVID-19, look out for those who are vulnerable in your communities and to stay safe, stay healthy and keep training however you can so that we are all ready when competitions are able to get underway again.

Paul Bray
Chair, British Handball Association

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