European club season changes as COVID-19 measures continue

20 Apr. 2020

European club season changes as COVID-19 measures continue

With authorities in a number of European countries extending lockdown measures, several domestic leagues within the continent have made the decision to cancel the remainder of the season or extend the dates for reassessment of the situation. 

After initially postponing the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2019 – where the Men’s Champions League title is decided in Cologne, usually at the end of May or early June – to August, the European Handball Federation (EHF) announced on Thursday that the event would be held on 28 and 29 December. 

“From the point of view of European club handball – and this opinion was supported by the main club representatives in a coordination meeting last week – there is the common will to stage the EHF FINAL4s in 2020,” said EHF President Michael Wiederer.

The competition was put on hold after the group phase, with two stages of knock-out matches to be played in order to determine the EHF FINAL4 participants – the Last 16 and quarter-finals. The EHF Executive Committee will determine how this part of the season will proceed in their meeting on 24 April. 

For the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League and Men’s EHF Cup Finals, which have both reached the quarter-final stage and had the final title-deciding events scheduled originally for May, discussions are ongoing regarding possible rescheduling. The WOMEN’S FINAL4 was previously rescheduled for 5 and 6 September, while the EHF Cup Finals were initially rescheduled for 29 and 30 August. 

Domestic leagues

Domestic leagues in Europe are either in discussion on how to conclude their seasons, or have already announced their seasons are over. 

The leagues in Norway and Switzerland were the first to announce the end of the season, with both federations making the decision by mid-March. Since then, the majority of the most prominent and competitive domestic leagues have been forced to follow. 

In Denmark, the elite and first division competitions were announced as ended on 7 April. The current frontrunners in each gender – Team Esbjerg for women and Aalborg for men – were awarded the titles. 

In Hungary, the announcement that the season was considered over was made on 9 April. To determine qualification for international club competitions, which are based on the domestic rankings each season, the Hungarian Handball Federation elected to apply the standings from the 2018/19 season to the 2020/21 season. 

“We wanted and would like to minimise this by looking at the 2019/20 season as if it hadn’t even happened and starting the season again as soon as possible, in the same line-up as far as the league classes are concerned,” explained federation Vice-President and former Hungary international Laszlo Nagy. 

In France, the decision to end the season was announced on 14 April. The men’s league title was awarded to the leaders as of that date, with Paris Saint-Germain collecting their sixth consecutive trophy in the men’s league. No update has been published regarding the women’s league. 

The Polish Handball Federation also announced the end of its top leagues for the 2019/20 season. 

In Germany, the final decision for the top men’s league is yet to be made, after the initial date for resumption of matches (23 April) was pushed back to 16 May. On Thursday 16 April, it was announced that a vote will be held early next week to determine the upcoming procedure for the top divisions. The top women's league had already been announced as ended on 18 March.  

Regarding competitions in other European nations, the latest information will be available on the relevant federation website. The websites for each federation are available in the Member Federation section on the IHF website. 

In addition to the changes in indoor competition calendars, a number of beach handball competitions across Europe scheduled for the upcoming months have been cancelled, including several that form part of the European Beach Tour.