26 May. 2021
Following the Executive Committee decision to exclude the IHF Playing Rules and Referees Commission Chairman Ramón Gallego from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Handball Tournaments, he submitted his resignation from his position.
As is usual within International Federations, every stakeholder and body of the International Handball Federation (IHF) is subject to supervision. The IHF Commissions, for example, are supervised by the IHF Executive Committee as per Article 15.3.1, point 4 of IHF Statutes.
According to the usual practice and in compliance with Articles 19.6.4 and 19.6.8 of the IHF Statutes, the IHF Commission of Organising and Competition (COC) and IHF Playing Rules and Referees Commission (PRC) submit their proposed nominations of officials and referees for upcoming IHF events to the IHF Executive Committee for approval, considering that the Executive Committee has the right to request changes to the nominations, if applicable. Afterwards, the PRC Chairman is free to appoint the referee couples for the respective matches of the IHF events concerned.
In his capacity as Chairman of the Executive Committee, IHF President Dr Hassan Moustafa informed and advised the PRC Chairman on several occasions not to engage referee couples from the same regions to officiate matches of the teams concerned, aiming not only to guarantee neutrality (despite the IHF’s trust in the neutrality of all IHF referees), but also to avoid any criticism, complaints or arguments for the referees and/or the IHF. The instruction was not limited to a particular region, as for example the PRC Chairman was advised not to nominate Arab referees for any matches of Arab teams, mainly to protect the referees from being criticised by the public or media after the match despite their neutrality throughout the match. Moreover, engaging referee couples from the same region could lead to advantages for one team speaking the same language. Such impact on the players should be avoided.
The nomination of a Norwegian referee couple for the Preliminary Round match Sweden versus Egypt, played on 18 January 2021 during the IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt, was highly criticised by the public as well as the media. Therefore, the IHF approached the PRC Chairman to remind him again to consider the aforementioned instruction, which he disregarded once again by appointing the Danish referee couple for the match Norway versus Romania, played on 20 March 2021 during the IHF Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Montenegro. The President of the Romanian Handball Federation, by official letter dated 29 March 2021, complained to the IHF about the above-mentioned referee nomination. He stated, among others, that “the delegation of a couple of referees from Denmark to a game in which one of the teams is Norway was uninspired and unfortunate.”
During the match Argentina versus Spain, played on 21 March 2021 as part of the IHF Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Spain, which was officiated by the Uruguayan referee couple and attended, among others, by the Spanish Minister of Sports, several decisions taken by the referees were criticised by the attendees.
In the finals of major IHF events, the PRC Chairman used to consult with the COC Chairman on the nomination of the referees. However, at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt, the PRC Chairman decided, without any consultation, to appoint the Spanish referee couple to officiate the final match.
According to the usual practice, the referee nominations for IHF events are limited to one couple per National Federation. However, the PRC Chairman insisted on nominating two referee couples from Spain for the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt. Even after the remark from the IHF President to avoid nominating two couples from one National Federation to ensure diversity and a fair distribution among the National Federations, the PRC Chairman again proposed nominating two referee couples from Spain for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games despite the availability of further top-level IHF referees.
In March 2021, the IHF approached the PRC Chairman asking for his explanation about the aforementioned incidents. However, his input did not justify his above-mentioned decisions in terms of referee nominations.
Additionally, the PRC Chairman created a constant conflict with the European Handball Federation (EHF), which forced both IHF and EHF to convene mutual meetings to resolve the issues through mediation by their Presidents. Due to the PRC Chairman’s differences with IHF PRC Member Dragan Nachevski, the PRC Chairman did not consider top-level IHF referee Gjorgji Nachevski (Dragan Nachevski’s son) in his initial referee nominations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Afterwards, the PRC Chairman apologised for his inappropriate behaviour and nominated Gjorgji Nachevski for the mentioned event.
On 20 April 2021, the IHF Executive Committee organised a video call to discuss the above-mentioned incidents occurred at recent IHF events in terms of referee nominations as decided by the PRC Chairman. The Executive Committee considered the importance of avoiding any criticism, complaints or arguments as to referee nominations in order to protect the image of the IHF, and unanimously decided not to include PRC Chairman Ramón Gallego in the list of IHF nominees for the Olympic Handball Tournaments at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Executive Committee decision did not concern any other responsibility in connection with Ramón Gallego’s position as IHF PRC Chairman.
However, by official letter dated 25 May 2021, Ramón Gallego resigned from all responsibilities in connection with his position as IHF PRC Chairman. Ramón Gallego’s resignation will be submitted to the IHF Council in its next meeting.
One of the IHF’s duties is to protect the best interests of all IHF stakeholders, taking into consideration the huge investment made by the National Federations in the preparation of their national teams. Therefore, the IHF is always keen to conduct all matches of IHF events at the highest level avoiding any criticism, complaints or arguments whatsoever.
The content of Ramón Gallego’s letter of resignation, which was disclosed by himself to the public, is not acceptable. The IHF President was of the opinion that Ramón Gallego only committed human mistakes, which, however, was not reflected in his resignation campaign.
The IHF would like to thank all its stakeholders, including the IHF President, who continuously offered their support to Ramón Gallego, even before he was elected PRC Chairman.
At the same time, the IHF thanks all IHF referees for their high-level performances at handball events and hopes to continue the good collaboration based on mutual trust.