EHF President: “We treat everyone in the same way”
The announcement of the playing dates of the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 made headlines in the handball media across Europe.
In scheduling its league fixture between THW Kiel and Rhein-Neckar Löwen, on a day reserved for the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, the German Handball Bundesliga caused major organisational problems for the EHF and the two German clubs.
Speaking to ehfCL.com journalist, Björn Pazen, the EHF President, Michael Wiederer discusses the issues surrounding the fixture clash.
ehfCL.com: Can there actually be any winner at the end of this power struggle?
Michael Wiederer: The EHF does not have a power struggle with the HBL, but it is true that the current discussion is not good for handball. We are in close contact with the rapidly developing French league, the Hungarian league and the SEHA league. So why should we have a power struggle with the HBL?
ehfCL.com: What do you mean by that?
Michael Wiederer: The current discussion is an isolated HBL matter, our job is to organise a Europe-wide competition as a platform for everybody, therefore the HBL cannot claim that we have not handled them correctly.
We have to treat the fans and the clubs in Kielce and Szeged in exactly the same way as we do all those competing in the competition. This means for example that throw-off times in Hungary and Poland are decided in these markets.
For many years we have aligned our competitions with the needs and requirements of the HBL. We are not for or against the HBL, but have to do our job for the whole of European handball. All leagues have the same status. We have often heard that we are too ‘German-friendly’ but at the same time are criticised by the German league.
ehfCL.com: Is situation deadlocked?
Michael Wiederer: The dates for this season’s Champions League schedule were set two years ago and now, for a second time, the HBL has caused scheduling problems. A few seasons ago, the German Cup final tournament was organised at the same time as the Champions League quarter-finals.
Now they have scheduled this match (to be shown on German public TV channel, ARD) at the same time as the Last 16. We have not caused this problem but have to cope with the situation. We have been praised by many European clubs for not bending to the demands of the HBL.
ehfCL.com: What does EHF have against the broadcast of the game Kiel against Löwen on ARD?
Michael Wiederer: Nothing at all. On the contrary, ARD is a very important partner for the EHF, particularly for the EHF EURO events. ARD and ZDF have broadcast all of Germany’s games since 1994, which was not been the case at the previous World Championship if you remember. We appreciate the opportunity a live broadcast in ARD can bring and completely support the presence of handball on public television in Germany.
ehfCL.com: Rhein-Neckar Löwen have announced that they will play their Champions League match at Kielce with their second team. What would the consequences be if this is the case?
Michael Wiederer: There will be no consequences, as long as they use the eligible players from their squad. However, this is an important point for the criteria list for future Champions League participation; namely how a club approaches and values the competition.
ehfCL.com: But didn’t Rhein Neckar-Löwen offer to play against Kielce on Sunday?
Michael Wiederer: We had a similar situation in the group phase; Rhein-Neckar-Löwen had a Bundesliga match in Leipzig on Saturday followed by a Champions League match at Barcelona on Sunday. This decision was criticised in the media by their coach, sports director and players, even though this solution had been proposed by Rhein-Neckar Löwen. We have to take into consideration the health of the players, just as Rhein-Neckar Löwen argued at the time. Therefore, we had to dismiss the possibility of playing the match on Sunday.
ehfCL.com: Could the dispute between HBL and EHF also affect the German bid for EHF EURO 2024?
Michael Wiederer: I do not think that the current discussions have a direct impact. From the EHF point of view, Germany is an attractive host for an EHF EURO final tournament. The decision will be taken by the representatives of the national federations – the Congress will decide how they see the discussion on 20 June in Glasgow.
A version of this interview also appears in the latest edition of the German weekly handball newspaper, HandballwocheAuthor: ehf/jjr