Hungary-Slovakia and Germany triumph in race for men's EHF Euros
By Martin Ross in Glasgow
A joint bid from Hungary and Slovakia today defeated a rival bid from Belgium, France and Spain to stage the men’s handball’s 2022 EHF Euro, the first edition of the tournament that will expand from 16 to 24 teams.
Meanwhile, Germany emerged victorious in the race to stage the men’s 2024 EHF Euro, as a joint bid from Denmark and Switzerland lost out.
The Hungary-Slovakia bid received 32 votes from delegates at the EHF Congress here at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow, more than double the total of 14 received by the rival tripartite proposal. Hungary and Slovakia’s presentation was received warmly by EHF member nations, promising a compact hosting concept with “no flights needed” as games are held in Budapest, Debrecen, Veszprem, Szeged, Bratislava and Kosice, and fans will be able to travel between the two capital cities by car in under two hours.
The two central European countries have experience in hosting handball events, including world youth and junior World Championships, while Hungary was the co-host of the women’s 2014 EHF Euro alongside Croatia. Neither country has yet staged a senior men’s EHF Euro or IHF World Championship.
The number of 2022 bidders was trimmed from three to two ahead of today’s vote as Denmark and Switzerland opted to withdraw in order to focus on taking on Germany for the 2024 tournament.
The 2022 men’s EHF Euro will be the first tournament for which the rights are jointly sold by Infront and Perform, after the duo recently signed off their 10-year agreement worth between €500 million ($579.7 million) and €600 million in rights fees and services.
During the Hungary-Slovakia bid presentation, which featured current handball stars Hungary’s László Nagy and Anita Görbicz, it was claimed that the championships would reach 152 million sports fans in the Central European region, as videos from fans from the likes of Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia were played.
Two venues are being built or renovated in the countries (regardless of the bid outcome) as Hungary’s Veszprem Arena undergoes “major expansion” and a new venue is constructed in Szeged.
Organisers also plan to offer “all-access” passes that will include tickets to games, transport, concerts and spa visits.
Speaking to Sportcal about the winning bid, EHF president Michael Wiederer said: “Hungary and Slovakia are traditional handball countries. Hungary is a country where handball counts a lot. It’s one of the five major sports and it’s very strongly supported by the government.
“They have the venues and they are really working hard on both men’s and women’s handball. So it’s not a surprise and we also need to understand that such a decision-making process is a Congress decision steered by so many federations and also has to do with the links between the federations, and they did good lobbying for their campaign.”
The Franco-Belgian-Spanish presentation focused on the values of “European solidarity, helping handball to grow everywhere, excellence, leading handball to new heights and diversity.”
Despite presenting a detailed 78-page bid book, including a budget of €16.6 million and projected ticketing income of €9.3 million, the presentation, fronted by just the presidents of the three respective national associations, was comparatively less dynamic and engaging.
Germany 2024 Two bids contested the rights to stage the competition in six years’ time, following the withdrawal of Denmark and Switzerland from the 2022 race.
Germany’s heavyweight bid garnered 27 votes from the EHF member associations, eight more than the Danish-Swiss offering and will stage the men’s European Championships for the first time.
During its presentation, the German team outlined its expectation of “more spectators at an EHF Euro than ever before” and a record attendance of more than 50,000 fans for the opening game at the Esprit Arena, the home of German soccer outfit Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Asked about the logistics of hosting the first 24-team competition, Mark Schober, chief executive of the DHB, the German handball federation, told Sportcal: “It is a challenge and we will play in arenas of more than 10,000 spectators each, so that will be a challenge. We know that we have a lot of handball players and 7 million people living in our country coming from [elsewhere] in Europe but we have to go into the other countries to give people affordable fan packages. I am optimistic that we can manage the challenge.”
Schober said that the layout at the Esprit Arena, and its closing roof, made it “more like an arena than a football stadium” and pointed to its hosting of ice hockey games as evidence of its flexibility.
On the possibility of a game at the venue, Wiederer (pictured, left) said: “I’ve seen several handball games at football stadiums, including a German league game at Arena AufSchalke with 33,000 people. I think it’s possible but it will need special efforts to make people feel comfortable. It’s an option we have and we will carefully analyse it.”
Germany’s other proposed venues are in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Hannover, Mannheim and Munich and organisers have vowed that it will be easy and affordable to reach the various locations.
The German bid involves a budget of between €20 million and €25 million, with the majority of costs stemming from deals with the venue operators, talks with whom will begin after Germany stages the men’s IHF World Championship at the start of next year.
A first European Handball Business Summit will be staged as part of the German hosting plan and funded by sponsors.
Within its literature handed out to EHF member associations gathered in Glasgow, the German bid flagged up 19 million Germans who watch handball on television, 6.8 million Germans who are “crazy about handball” and 760,000 active handball members across 4,400 clubs.
Despite European handball moving to an enlarged tournament of 24 teams for its showpiece men’s event, Wiederer stressed that there will still be some countries able to stage the competition on their own.
He noted: “There are countries in Europe that currently are able to organise a Euro with 24 teams and there will be in the future more countries able to organise that. Germany has a very good infrastructure so it was a logical candidate. I think we’ll see in the future double or threefold organisers but also single organisers.”
Denmark recently staged the men’s EHF Euro (in 2014) and Switzerland held the tournament 12 years ago.
Their bid boasted the tagline ‘A Perfect Partnership’ and promised to “show a new hosting model that will open up new hosting opportunities for smaller nations.”
The men’s EHF Euro 2022 will take place from 14 to 30 January and the 2024 tournament will be staged between 12 and 28 January.
• Luxembourg was today named as the host of the 2021 EHF Congress, as the election congress is held in odd years rather than even.
The EHF adopted the change in Glasgow so that elections no longer take place shortly before the women’s EHF Euro event and “are better harmonised with the schedule of the IHF Congress.”