DEN/NOR/SWE 2023 Closing Media Conference: “A great show”

17 Dec. 2023

DEN/NOR/SWE 2023 Closing Media Conference: “A great show”

On Sunday afternoon the closing media conference for the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship took place ahead of the bronze and gold medal matches.

Following an introduction from IHF President Dr Hassan Moustafa, chairs of three IHF commissions, alongside a representative from Official Media and Marketing Partner of the IHF, SPORTFIVE, spoke to the world’s media gathered inside the Jyske Bank Boxen and here is what they said.

Per Bertelsen, Chairman – IHF Commission of Organising and Competitions (COC):
“From a competition standpoint, this edition of the IHF Women’s World Championship was once again a great success with 32 top nations in the world fighting for the title.

“We had three hosts for the first time in history, with six venues that put on a great show, which underlines the love for handball in Scandinavia. Everyone involved did a fantastic job.

“This was also the first senior IHF Women’s World Championship with 112 matches and we are very happy with the quality shown by the teams, with the top sides remaining at a very high level while other teams have shown they have cut the gap and improved.

“We are also very happy that we only had under 10 disciplinary cases and not really not big cases, but smaller cases. I'm very, very happy for this. Looking back, we took a decision some years ago that in IHF competitions we will always have a rest day between matches and the teams and the coaches and everybody finds that very, very, very good.

“We had over 2,000 volunteers here and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. If we did not have all of this, it would not be possible to do this competition.

“In all the cities they have done a fantastic job. In Herning, Frederikshavn, Stavanger, Trondheim, Helsingborg and Gothenburg. Everything was working fantastic during the competition.

“Of course, there were issues and I'm sure I will get some questions about it, but these have been identified and we will go forward with some learning experiences which will only make the competition even better in the future as we constantly strive to improve and become even better.

“I also have the feeling that the connection with the coaches and our technical delegates has been better in this tournament. There has been a little fight, but still, it has been better than it has been in the past. I'm really, really happy to be chairman in the Organising and Competition Commission and to finish this tournament, which has been really fantastic.”

Dietrich Späte, Chairman – IHF Commission of Coaching and Methods (CCM):
“In general, we can say – and this is really positive – the tendencies are parallel in the men’s area and the women’s area.

“The product is, from our side, really good. Women’s handball is a modern, high-speed game. We saw frequent fast-breaks, quick throw-offs and, compared with men’s areas, frequently more fast speed attacks. It also might be of a higher risk, so this means the error rate is sometimes higher, but, still, I think it's an attractive game.

“Attack efficiency is only 1% lower than at Spain 2021, but also near to the all-time record of 53.2%. Technical faults are a little bit higher, at 11.8 per game, but still the top teams are under 10 per game – Norway 9.3, Denmark, 9.1. This is a really good result and near to the top teams in the men’s area.

“With wing shots we don't see any huge differences, but the distance shots have risen up dramatically at a clear, higher rate and also clear, better effectiveness. We have 45% on average, but Norway is the best with 55.7%, a really good result.

“At the same time we have less actions from the pivot zone, but we are seeing the pivot as a second playmaker and today they are more important to prepare technical means for their teammates, especially the blocks or supporting technical actions with efficiencies rising up from 61.6% in Spain, to 72% now, pivots are really important. Breakthroughs have risen by more than 50% in this tournament, up to nearly 20%.

“After the last IHF Men’s World Championship one year ago, the development is in not so tall players, but quick players, really good on one-to-one, with creative shootings and good corporation. This is a really positive development in our game.

“In the last 10 years, the situation with the goalkeeper efficiency was going down, down, down. Now we have 36.1%: the comeback of goalkeepers. You have seen fantastic goalkeeper performances here.

“The tactical strategies, especially in the free throw situations, this is an important moment in our game. We saw a lot of good and creative saves and this is good. It was a little bit of our goal when we put the fifth person – the goalkeeping coach – on our bench. This is a good development.

“This is also maybe the problem in so-called ‘developing countries’ – defence and goalkeeper – but we are working for this and we have a lot of development projects on this.”

Per Morten Sødal, Chairman – IHF Playing Rules and Referees Commission (PRC):
“We had 23 referee couples in the tournament, seven of them were women. In general, I’m quite satisfied with the performances.

“Those who know me, know that I will never be the one that says that things are fantastic, because our game is so complicated. The referees have to take so many decisions during the match, so mistakes will or have occurred and they will occur also in the future.

“To be very honest, perfection is impossible during a handball match from the refereeing side. Really true perfection, that's impossible, but we are really working with them before tournaments, during tournaments and after tournaments and working to also catch the trends.

“Here, we are also in very close cooperation with the coaches so we can act more to certain developments in the game, rather than react to them.

“We have seen that we had some situations towards the end of tight games, of course we had wished some different decisions in some games, but in general, I'm satisfied and we had a top group of really, really strong couples here.

“I must also emphasise that our group of new referees have also exceeded my expectations in what they have performed during this championship.

“I have just one statistic. In the previous Women's World Championship, in 2021 in Spain, we had an average of 6.23 two-minute suspensions per match. That's was a reduction of 1.6 two-minute suspensions per match compared to the championship in Kumamoto two years before (Japan 2019).

“I haven't counted the matches today, but so far we are on 6.21, so the development line, and I also think the punishment line, of the referees is quite straight now.

“With mistakes, what we see on this – and this is also a little bit of plea to the handball community – is that one of the most beautiful things with our sport is that it's considered to be quite fair. We have tough duels. We have players ending up on the ground and then they stand up, shake hands and continue.

“But we have seen a trend, and we have seen it for quite time, that players are very aware that the ‘effect’ of the situation is one of the decision-making criteria for the referees when they are deciding about different punishments.

“We see that some are trying to ‘help’ us, or ‘help’ the referees a little bit too much. This, we want to take away. We have been clear with the referees; they have clear criteria. I've seen that also some media have been writing about it and, from our side, it's a good observation.

“But I must also emphasise that this cannot only be a responsibility for referees, this is a responsibility of players, a responsibility of coaches, a responsibility of clubs and federations and confederations and also us in the IHF, to protect the image of our sport and keep it as beautiful as possible.

“We also see that we are getting stronger and stronger couples from outside Europe. We have seen quite a new couple from Uruguay performing really well in both the group phase and main round, but, unfortunately, because of personal reasons, they had to leave the tournament – we also now have couples from four different continents, including Europe, in this tournament.

“Another very positive story is the new couple from Kuwait who have done clearly above what I can expect from a couple that are in a senior IHF World Championship for the first time. They have exceeded my expectations and, those who know me, know that my expectations are quite high.

“We are in a good way and this is also a kind of a proof, because if we see in the latest IHF Junior World Championships, we had the final referees from Uruguay in the men's under 21 Championship and they did a really good job and last year we had final referees from Argentina and from Algeria in the women’s Junior and Youth Championships, who also did a really good job.

“We are getting there and that is also important to make handball a worldwide sport.”

Robert Müller von Vultejus, Chief Growth Officer at SPORTFIVE:
“Awarding an IHF World Championship to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark means that you can expect fantastic arenas, a great organisation, great sport and exciting games.

“This is exactly what we got here. From an organisational and commercial perspective, this was a great and fantastic world championship, so a big thank you to all the three countries and their respective NOCs.

“The SPORTFIVE role was to produce the world feed and we've been distributing the games around the globe, and we also ran the commercial programme on behalf of the championship, on behalf of the IHF.

"More than 180 countries were broadcasting from the event. We found a couple of new broadcasters, particularly in Asia; in Japan and Korea, we moved back in China to CCTV, which is the state broadcaster.

"It's not a big surprise that particularly in Scandinavia, it was a great success with more than 70% of the market share in Norway and Denmark and with the final games still to come. Sweden, with more than 30% market share on the semi-finals and quarter-finals is a great success. From a broadcast perspective, this was really a tremendous world championship.

"For the first time for an IHF Women's World Championship, we have established a new commercial programme. Without sponsors, such an event could not happen and therefore we are very thankful for the line-up of commercial partners which joined us here in Scandinavia.

"Beside the four sponsors of the IHF, we have established a commercial programme with eight tournament partners and a lot of partners who just joined for single matches.

"We haven't ever seen before such a great contribution and support from sponsors in previous events. It’s been a great success in all aspects."

Following the conclusion of the formal statements of the media conference, questions were welcomed from the world’s media in attendance.