​Update from the Chair of the British Handball Association: October 2021

Post published October 15, 2021 (Updated October 15, 2021)

Paul Bray, Chair of the British Handball Association provides an update of activities.

Human spirit shines through COVID-19 pandemic
As per my previous update, I would like to continue to extend the very best wishes on behalf of everyone connected with the British Handball Association (BHA) to all affected by COVID-19, wherever they are in the world reading this.

I would also like to reiterate 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 here in the UK.

The ongoing response of the British handball community to the challenges posed by COVID-19 continues to inspire and uplift, not least through the fantastic work of our sole members – the England Handball Association (EHA) and Scottish Handball Association (SHA) – at the grassroots of our sport.

Looking back, looking forward
I am happy to write that a new season – the 2021/22 edition – is underway, but it is also important to reflect on last season (2020/21) which was extremely challenging.

All our major external stakeholders – UK Sport, the International Handball Federation (IHF) and the European Handball Federation (EHF) – have been absolutely relentless in their support of the BHA throughout the COVID-19 crisis and I would like to personally extend my thanks to all of them.

However, sadly, we took the decision to withdraw all our Great Britain teams from all IHF and EHF competitions this past summer due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. It was not a decision we wanted to take, but it was the right one and the only one we could take. The safety of our players and staff is, and will always be, our overriding priority.

While this will have been disappointing for everyone concerned, we must not feel downbeat, but instead focus on the future. Our teams are now getting back into their training programmes and we will continue on our successful path.

Our senior men will be the first Great Britain team to resume competition when they play in the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship – Qualification Europe Phase 1 in Finland, next month. Matches against the hosts, as well as Estonia and Georgia will present a very tough challenge for Ricardo Vasconcelos’ team, but the qualification tournament represents the first opportunity in two years to get the team back into a competition mindset with a look ahead to key events in 2023, including the Men’s EHF Euro 2026 qualifiers and IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.

In addition to our men’s senior team, we have also registered our M18 and M20 teams in the EHF Championships next summer, while we wait to hear about any potential dates for the IHF Men’s and Women’s Trophy competitions, crucial opportunities for our teams to gain valuable international experience. We continue to lobby the IHF to launch an Emerging Nations Championship for women.

With our national teams that have no official competitions scheduled this season, we are working with their coaching and management staff to agree on other competitions to attend and to fix goals for each squad.

Success off the court
Despite the wider challenges, the past year has seen several of successes for British Handball. Most notably we secured UK Sport funding for the first time since the London 2012 Olympic Games. This was a significant achievement and will provide funding for our senior teams to compete at an international level.

I would again like to thank everyone who supported the preparation of our UK Sport submissions, but in particular, Board members Anna Garside and Lucy McClements, who worked with me on the project team, as we put in an extraordinary amount of time and effort preparing a very strong submission. I would also like to recognise the excellent support we received from the Performance Group, and particularly Great Britain coaches Ricardo Vasconcelos, Bill Baillie and Paul Dempsey, who all helped draft the Performance Strategic Plan and GB Blueprint.

I am also pleased to say that our negotiations with the IHF and its President, Dr Hassan Moustafa, on extending the IHF New Markets fund for another term are progressing well. We remain hugely grateful to the IHF for their ongoing support of EHA and SHA grassroots programmes in the UK and our GB age group national teams.

Focus on Clean Sport
In April 2021 UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) launched a new version of the UK National Anti-Doping Policy and Assurance Framework and we have been working hard to make sure that British Handball is fully compliant. Players and staff will see more on this as the season progresses.

Board changes
Colleen Walker, currently the Finance Director at the Scottish Badminton Association, has replaced Lucy McClements as Director (Finance & Governance) and brings strong experience from the sports financial and governance sector.

Lucy stepped down as Non-Executive Director (Finance & Corporate Governance) after an outstanding job over her four-year term. In addition to her work on the UK Sport bid, Lucy was instrumental in changing and updating most of our governance processes which ensured we had a successful UK Sport audit last year. Everyone at British Handball is very sad to see her go and we wish her well in her future endeavours.

Further to this, England Handball (EHA) Director Diaraye Diallo became the new EHA Representative on the British Handball Board following EHA Chair Tracy Watkinson stepping down from her duties. The EHA appointed Rosie Williams OBE as its new Chair last month and we will wait to hear from the EHA on their future representation on the BHA Board.

A partnership with a legendary handball brand
In June, we announced a new partnership with hummel as our new official kit supplier. We are delighted to be associated with such an iconic brand with a rich handball background. Hummel has agreed to provide home and away kits for all six of our GB squads which represents a significant investment, and we are grateful for the faith they have put in us.

Get involved
Don’t forget - we are also interested in hearing from any players who may qualify to play for GB.

In closing, I would like to remind everyone that we are always interested in hearing any feedback, queries, suggestions, news or opportunities to help us continue in our mission to showcase the very best of British Handball on the global stage. Please tag us in any social media posts #gbhandball or email us at office@britishhandball.com.

Paul Bray
Chair, British Handball Association