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Date: 1/13/2015

Teams participating in the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship can expect a crackdown from referees with regard to contact, in particular holding players without the ball and long holding of pivot players.

Since arriving in Doha for their final days of preparation prior to the start of the World Championship on Thursday, IHF referees have been and will continue to participate in theoretical meetings and video analyses with an intense focus on illegal holding.

As stated in the Rules of the Game, players are not permitted to hold an opponent’s body or uniform, and are not allowed to hold other players for a long time or pull them down.

Therefore, players will now begin to receive faster judgements and harsher penalties for actions such as long holding of the pivot, holding another’s uniform and pulling players down. The increased scrutiny will also focus on attackers, particularly pivots.

For some years this has been a somewhat grey area for players and coaches, but now IHF referees will be making what is and is not acceptable very clear, beginning at the 24th Men’s World Championship.

“In recent years we have detected that sometimes handball, which is normally a tough sport, in some situations, in some matches, in some competitions, is more than tough,” said Playing Rules and Referees Commission (PRC) member Ramon Gallego.

“In the last three or four years we have worked very hard on these problems, but have not been as successful as we would like,” said Gallego.

It was at the last IHF forum in Denmark that PRC members sat with top coaches and agreed it was time to take a firm stand for the benefit of handball’s positive image throughout the world.

“We accept handball as a physically hard sport, but there are rules and we must play according to the rules. Coaches and players must have clear expectations of what they can do and so on. I think in this moment we are on the way to help the coaches and players in the future – they will know what is allowed and what is not allowed,” said former player, former German national coach and IHF Technical Delegate Heiner Brand.

Brand is taking part in the meetings with referees, giving insight into the game from a coaching and playing perspective. For Brand, the new focus is about making the rules clearer for not only players and coaches, but also spectators, as well as ensuring the image of the game is a positive one.

“We want to make handball more attractive, and if there are many people that understand the game it will be better and better in the future,” he said.

Gallego said he believes the referees initially have a lot to think about considering how this will change handball for them, but overall they have also been wanting to control this aspect of the game for a long time.

“I'm sure we will have success in this championship, and then the rest of the competitions around the world must follow us – continental competitions and club competitions  because there is only one rule book. One book, one set of rules,” concluded Gallego. 

To view the IHFtv video on this topic, please click here.