Since my previous update last year there have been lots of positive developments for the British Handball Association (BHA), and handball in Great Britain generally through the grassroots work of both the England Handball Association (EHA) and Scottish Handball Association (SHA).
The BHA had several fruitful meetings with the International Handball Federation (IHF) throughout the year, resulting in further financial support being secured until 2021 for our GB age group programmes, as well as for EHA and SHA grassroots programmes.
Personally, and on behalf of the BHA I would like to express my gratitude to the IHF and its President, Dr. Hassan Moustafa, for this crucial ongoing support.
In my last update I spoke about our lobbying efforts to change UK Sport’s policy of only funding sports that are highly likely to win medals at the next Olympic Games.
We have lobbied both independently and through the ‘All Sports Matter’ group, created from all the unfunded Olympic and Paralympic sports, and have met with the Sports Minister, Shadow Sports Minister’s office and UK Sport Chair Katherine Grainger, as well as engaging with the media.
I am happy to report that our efforts paid off and on 1 March 2019, UK Sport announced that, while its focus will remain on winning Olympic and Paralympic medals, it will create a new ‘Progression’ funding tier with longer-term objectives. This will only come into effect in the next Paris Olympic cycle (2021-2024) and we still have to successfully bid for funding, but this is hugely positive news for elite handball’s long-term future in Great Britain.
That future is brighter than ever with six British national teams now active, including the men’s and women’s senior teams, U18/U20 men and U17/U19 women.
In the four years since we started putting the national team programme together again, the GB teams have participated in 12 official IHF/EHF competitions – success in itself – but it is also greatly rewarding to see the increasing level of success at these competitions, as we gradually close the gaps on the higher-ranked nations.
Indeed, last October, our U18 men reached the final of the IHF Trophy in Kosovo, losing to the hosts in a close final. This is a great example of the hard work and commitment by all of the GB players and coaching staff who spend considerable time and money on our sport which remains largely self-funded.
A large part of our work which goes unnoticed is the internal organisation and running of the BHA on a daily basis and I would like to personally thank Lucy McClements, who, over the past few months, has done a tremendous job on reviewing and updating our Safeguarding Child Protection and Privacy policies – thanks to her hard work we are now looking in good shape.
On the political side, we have seen some changes among the Independent BHA Board members.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jason Lee for his outstanding work on the BHA Board and level of commitment in the Performance area. Jason has done some excellent work but had to step down for personal reasons and everybody at the BHA wishes him all the best for the future. We are in the process of recruiting his successor.
One new replacement on the board can be mentioned though with Argyro Elisavet Manoli – Lecturer in Sports Marketing and Communications at the globally-renowned Loughborough University – who has already been very active on the Commercial role, replacing Alan Robson.
In addition to the new board members, we have also appointed three new GB coaches this season to take our programmes forward.
The experienced former GB player Paul Dempsey has taken on the senior women’s team, while London 2012 Olympians Chris McDermott and John Pearce have been appointed to the Under 20 and Under 18 men’s teams respectively.
Those coaches will be part of a busy summer ahead for British Handball. In June, the GB senior men will participate in the IHF Emerging Nations Championship, and in July the GB U19 women will take part in the EHF Championship in Bulgaria and the U18 men will be at the EHF European Open in Sweden. Later in the year both the U17 and U19 women will participate at the IHF Women’s Trophy.
It is worth highlighting that all travel and accommodation costs for the GB teams taking part in the IHF Emerging Nationals Championship and IHF Trophy events are covered by the IHF – an important and integral part for the continued development of our teams on the international stage.
Whilst there have been challenges in the past year and there are sure to be more in the next 12 months too, the launch of our ‘British Handball Calling’ campaign, a planned increase in our media presence and a potential volunteer council being formed to help with our ever-increasing workload all means that 2019 is set to be another progressive and constructive year for handball in Great Britain.
As ever, personally, and as an association, your feedback, ideas or offers of support are welcome, so please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chairman, British Handball Association