EHF presses forward with revamp of showpiece events

The European Handball Federation (EHF) has agreed to revamp the format of its men’s Champions League club competition, while an expanded men’s European Championships could be in place as soon as the 2020 event.

Changes to the EHF showpiece events were on the agenda as the federation’s executive committee met in Vienna. As a result of a year-long consultation process with all key stakeholders and external partners, the EHF Executive agreed to the introduction of a new playing system in the Champions League from the start of the 2015-16 season.

The changes will see the introduction of a new-look competition with 28 teams. The new format will be played with a group phase consisting of four groups, before moving on to two knock-out phases and ending in the traditional Final4 event. The Final4 will continue in its existing format, with the four top teams from the competition competing for the title. The new system follows the agreed changes in the Women’s Champions League, which will be played with a new system from the start of 2014-15.

The EHF said in a statement: “With more clubs competing, the new format will open up the competition to more nations and new markets across Europe. It will also guarantee more top matches for Europe’s leading clubs and make the Velux EHF Champions League more attractive to spectators, sponsors and the media. At the same time, all clubs playing in the group phases of the competition have the chance to qualify for the knock-out phases and the Velux EHF Final4.”

Meanwhile, the Executive has agreed to submit a motion to the EHF Congress in Dublin on September 19-20 for an expansion of the men’s European Championships from 16 teams to 24 as of 2022. In considering the changes, the Executive acknowledged that an expansion of the event would result in a need to strengthen the quality of youth national teams throughout Europe. The federation added expansion would also open up possibilities for nations to host one or more rounds of the EHF Euro for the first time.

However, the Executive said that should agreement be reached at September’s meeting these plans could be advanced to the 2020 competition, of which the hosting rights are currently being contended by Austria, Norway and Sweden. The Executive agreed that should the expansion go ahead, and on the basis of the necessary organisational and financial conditions, as well as agreements with the host nations, Austria, Norway and Sweden could potentially co-host a Euro 2020 with 24 nations. Based on initial agreements this would mean preliminary rounds would take place in Austria, Norway and Sweden, main round matches would be played in Austria and Sweden and the finals in Sweden.

EHF president Jean Brihault said: “Following on from the decision to update the format of the Women's EHF Champions League from next season, I am delighted that we have now agreed how we want to move forward in the in the Velux EHF Champions League and the Men's EHF European Championships, important steps which I am sure will take men's handball in the right direct direction for the future.”