Cologne beams like a lighthouse of club handballArticle
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INTERVIEW: EHF Secretary General Michael Wiederer compares the VELUX EHF FINAL4 to a lighthouse of handball as he reflects on another successful weekend in Cologne

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Cologne beams like a lighthouse of club handball

Most handball fans will remember the last VELUX EHF FINAL4 as the most thrilling and exciting ever after the new winners Vive Tauron Kielce took the throne after climbing back from a nine-goal hole and clinched the title only in the penalty shootout. However, the season’s ending climax was about more than decisive goals scored or historic wins achieved.

In an interview with Michael Wiederer, EHF Secretary General, offers not only a more detailed look back from different perspectives but also a look forward to the 2017 edition and beyond. The 2015/16 season is over and the dust is slowly settling after last weekend’s unexpected triumph for Kielce in Cologne. If you look back and name three facts that impressed you at most, what would it be?

Michael Wiederer: I could reply in a slogan form - full hall, full entertainment, top handball. I really like the comparison of this event to a lighthouse of European handball. And this holds true not only for Cologne but also for the women’s tournament in Budapest. In both cases we had sold-out arenas with 10 or 20 thousand spectators respectively and two highlight tournaments. We could hardly wish for more as they both ended after great thrillers in penalty shootouts.

Including the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes we staged three big tournaments within May and although it was enormously tough for our staff it paid off when you look at the media interest or spectators’ attendance.

On this occasion I want to express my congratulations to David Szlezak who had to act in a double function as VELUX EHF FINAL4 manager and EHF Marketing Managing Director and despite the short time together with his colleagues managed to organise a premium-quality event.

The seventh edition of the FINAL4 has reached new heights again from the entertainment programme to the interest of partners and other stakeholders.

Now we can look forward to the 2017 edition, which promises to become the highlight of the next season’s handball calendar. The ticketing strategy has been developed and all tickets brought to the market to date have been sold already. We saw the first use of the instant video replay technology assisting referees to reach a decision. What are the plans with it?

The EHF has always stressed a very function of this tournament and like instant replay this year, other technologies like goal-line cameras, goal-light or the digital scoresheet were tested here in the past as well. As the instant replay has proved to be successful here we will try to develop a concept for more extensive use in our competitions. When talking about the final tournament’s future it has been decided already last year that it will stay in Cologne until 2020 with a one-year option somewhere else. How do you see the upcoming years?

Michael Wiederer: We will always do what is best for handball and right now Cologne is the best option no matter from which perspective we are looking at the tournament. For the third time out of the last four years a team has won, which was not touted as the hottest favourite by experts before the tournament’s start. Is this becoming a FINAL4 phenomenon?

Michael Wiederer: This is another point why Cologne is important as a venue for us as it provides a more or less neutral ground for the teams. For the third time in the LANXESS arena no German team was in the final and neither of the sides could claim the advantage of playing on a so-called home court. This always creates a sound basis for a surprise and if playing qualities meet will power in the right moment any team can win the trophy. This was the first season which saw a new playing system for the men’s top flight having been introduced last summer. What kind of feedback have you been receiving since then?

Michael Wiederer: We have not received a single negative comment on the system from the clubs or other stakeholders. All are talking in a very positive way about the mode, but this was just the first season. Already in the second season we will start analysing it and see whether any changes are required. The FINAL4 tournament will always be an integral part of all evaluations as it has proved itself as a competition’s locomotive. When it comes to the preparation for the next season the first important date will be on 24 June, when the EHF Executive Committee will meet in Vienna and the list of participants for the 2016/17 edition will be decided. How will these decisions be made?

Michael Wiederer: We are going to use the same criteria system and same procedure as the last year, when we introduced that for the first time. Perhaps, the only difference will be that will be even stricter and sharpen these criteria.

But June is also a month of financial accounting and according to the regulations 80 per cent of the profit made throughout the season will be redistributed to the participating clubs.

Already on 1 July we will hold group stage draws both for men's and women's EHF Champions League and right afterwards the preparations for the new season will be in full swing.

TEXT: EHF / br