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21.06.2017, 11:57◄ last page     

FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: The EHF correspondent for Poland Magda Pluszewska takes a closer look on how the domestic league developed in just one year after Vive Tauron Kielce claimed the VELUX EHF Champions League title

Five reasons why Polish superliga is making waves

Following the weekend handball festival of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne earlier this month, the European Professional Handball Leagues Association (EPHLA) has a new member – Poland.

The ‘PGNiG Superliga’ has provided two teams for the European top flight - VELUX EHF Champions League in the last four seasons and if the EHF Executive Comittee meeting on Saturday in Zagreb approves the upgrade request of the Polish federation, the traditional tandem Vive Tauron Kielce and Orlen Wisla Plock will be on the starting grid again.

The Superliga is revolutionising domestic handball in the country after its introduction at the beginning of last season with new rules, a new image, new people, new priorities and a brand-new quality.

Compared to previous seasons, Polish handball has made a huge jump forward with the superliga and go into all the details here would need at least a text the size of a Tolkien trilogy, at least.

Thus, let me only stroke your curiosity initially with this short guide of how to make a professional handball league in a Polish style – all with a pinch of salt, of course ;)

1. Totally new rules
No worries, players are still allowed to only take three steps maximum, the court is 40x20m and the ball is still round, but the superliga has reorganised the contest by dividing teams into two groups: orange and dark blue.

Each team plays each other twice as before, but victory within the group counts as three points (with one bonus point). In addition, there are no draws anymore – the game must be decided, in extra time or even penalty shots. It all means an additional attraction for the fans, more possibilities to shuffle within the table, and a bit of confusion and unreadability for those new to it.

2. Social media ninja
It’s impossible to be in two separate places at one time but, nowadays, it’s better to be in one place at different times. Where can you do this? The internet of course!

The superliga invited all handball fans into the world of their social media where they can choose their favourite players in each match, round and month, and discuss the current scores.

They even named the trophies received by the best players of the season and will award one of them, entitled ‘The Gladiators’ – sounds even better than Oscars, right? The fans are active in creating the league together with the management.

It is also great to watch more and more players being active on social media - well done all!
3. Create trends
Maybe pink jerseys for the players? Or wearing a moustache in November? Not so popular? So, let’s make it popular, but only for a worthwhile cause.

The players of the PGNiG Superliga engaged in ‘Movember’ for men’s health and played a ‘Pink Ribbon Match’ for women, wearing powder pink and fuchsia costumes.

What about ending the season in style? Let’s make a big gala for all the handball family and while we’re at it why not make this an occasion to create trends in evening outfits.

Just look at the players from Kielce and their polka dot trousers below. Thanks to such action, the superliga really stood out.

4. Compose a group of the best people
Players, coaches, managers, fans, journalists - all the people you don’t see on screen. They are all together and every single one of them participates in the final result of creating a league.

Nobody knows everything, but everyone is an expert in the area he or she is responsible for. In the superliga everyone worked like a turbo-ant in a messy anthill.

The athletes made spectacular plays, the fans made a spectacular atmosphere, the NC+ television team produced a spectacular show and the league management put it all together in a spectacular way.

Young and old, short and tall, men and women – everyone fits in the Superliga’s big puzzle!

5. Take a risk
Fundamental change needs a huge risk. Superliga sold their media rights to encrypted television. The move meant the choice of making handball a high-quality product, but with lower viewership. The reorganisation of the contest and new rules at the beginning incurred a storm.

For the first three years the league is closed – no team will drop out, so they can invest in the youth and learn the rules. The league changes its image dramatically and it will take time for the fans and clubs to get used to it.

There are so many innovations appearing at each corner and we will see what results they will bring in the future, but remember, he or she who doesn’t take a risk never gets to drink champagne!
Of course, there were many ups and downs during the season. It’s normal – we all are learning the league from scratch.

But all in all, I think that the first season of the professional handball league in Poland was an enormous success, not only with its promotion, but also in case of the sporting side.

Take a look, get inspired and enjoy the best sport in the world, Polish style.

I already can’t wait what next season and the future will bring!

Photos: official social media accounts of the PGNiG Superliga, Vive Tauron Kielce, SPR Wisla Plock, Piotrkowianin Piotrkow Trybunalski, players and journalists.

TEXT: Magda Pluszewska/amc

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