It is the year 2021. There’s enough crazy stuff going on in the world as it stands without anyone adding to it.
However, the International Handball Federation (IHF) have arguably dragged their sport back to the 1960s after their decision to fine the Norwegian women’s national Beach Handball team after their bronze medal game against Spain in the Euro 2021 Championship in Bulgaria.
Their offense? The team decided that they were not comfortable playing in very revealing and tight bikini bottoms and instead wore tight-fitting shorts to play instead.
The shorts were the same color as their bikini bottoms. They weren’t equipped with rocket packs to help them run faster, score more goals. Nor did they have any other built-in equipment to help put off their opponents.
They were just shorts; instead of what amounts to a pair of revealing lycra knickers.
However, this wasn’t good enough for the IHF, who after warning the team for a ‘breach of uniform’ fined the 12-strong Norwegian female team €1500 ($1700).
Welcome To 1960 With The IHF!
This monumentally stupid decision is further cast into a bad light when you consider that male beach handball players can (and are obliged to) wear full-length tank tops and shorts that can go to a length just above the knee.
But heaven forbid a team of female competitors that want to wear tight shorts that finish at the top of the thigh. That is just not on!
Credit to the Norwegian Handball Federation, as they covered the fines for all members of the team and the president Kare Geir Lio commented:
“It’s not the activity when they are playing in the sand.”
“I got a message 10 minutes before the match that they would wear the clothing they were satisfied with. And they got our full support.”
The team had petitioned to wear the offending shorts throughout the tournament, but the IHF threatened them with fines and disqualification from the tournament if they opted to wear the shorts instead of the regulation bikini bottoms.
In indoor handball, women’s team wear shorts and shirts, the same as male competitors.
IHF Clothing Rules – Designed By Hugh Hefner?
Incredibly, the IHF have their own guidance as to what clothing female players must wear. They must wear tops that show bare midriff and bikini bottoms.
If that isn’t bad enough, they actually prescribe just how revealing the bikini bottoms must be, stating that they must have “a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg” and the side width must not be any longer than four inches.
The team has received widespread support for their stance on social media including from the Norwegian Minister of Culture, Abid Raja, who tweeted:
“This is completely ridiculous! How many attitude changes are needed in the old-fashioned international patriarchy of sports?”
Perhaps this telling Twitter post of both Norwegian male and female beach handball teams in their ‘official IHF-approved” uniform offers a clear insight into the incredible double-standards and misogyny at play.
— Dr. Ji Son (@cogscimom) July 20, 2021
Campaigning Since 2006
Incredibly, this is not a new issue. Norway has been campaigning since 2006 for shorts to be official uniform for female players in beach handball. They will submit another motion to change the rules to the IHF Congress to be held in November.
So far, this request has been met with silence by the IHF, while their European counterparts the European Handball Federation have commented:
“The EHF is committed to bring this topic forward in the interest of its member federations, however it must also be said that a change of the rules can only happen at IHF level.”
Which is a very unsubtle way of passing the buck.
Perhaps the best summation of this sorry situation comes from Eirik Sordahl, the Norwegian Volleyball Federation president who simply commented:
“In 2021, it shouldn’t even be an issue.”
He’s completely right. And it is to the huge discredit of the IHF that it actually is.
This is not about changing the uniform from bikini bottoms. If some players want to wear bikinis, that is fine. However, players should not be penalised for wearing shorts that they feel more comfortable in and they should be free to wear whatever they feel suits them for the game they are about to play.
Regardless of what sex they are.