Coach’s Challenge rule to make debut in EHF EURO Cup

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European Handball Federation

The new ‘coach’s challenge’ rule will be tested for the first time in the EHF EURO Cup match between Germany and Spain on Sunday 30 April in a move aimed at increasing the fairness and integrity of handball.

The EHF has implemented a new regulation which will allow a team official to challenge a call made by a referee, triggering a video replay of the action. This gives coaches the power to make sure that the right calls are being made and could be used to ensure that the game is as fair and accurate as possible.

After testing the rule in Sunday’s match between Germany and Spain, it is hoped to be implemented fully at the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.

EHF Officiating Unit Coordinator George Bebetsos said the move was following developments in this field by other major team sports such as basketball, volleyball, American football, and ice hockey and came in the wake of the introduction of video replay technology in handball in 2016 and the subsequent addition of electronic team timeout buzzers.

Bebetsos stressed the coach’s challenge is a new competition regulation and does not change the rules of the game. 

Under the regulation, each team is allowed one challenge per game, regardless of whether the challenge is successful. It will only be used in matches with video replay and the electronic team timeout buzzers. 

Team official A will be able to challenge a referee’s decision (or the absence of a call)  involving only their team. Taking up a challenge costs a team timeout, although if the challenge is successful, the team will receive the timeout back. Therefore a team can only use the challenge if it has not used up its three timeouts. 

The challenge must take place immediately after the call being challenged, and it can only be used in relation to situations where video replay can be used – including whether a goal is allowed or not, disqualifications, faulty substitutions, whether players are attempting to mislead referees, fights on court, and game-changing situations in the last 30 seconds of the match.   

To overturn a challenged event or to change the outcome of a reviewable matter via a challenge, there must be “clear and conclusive visual evidence” that the initial adjudication of that aspect of the play was incorrect. 

Bebetsos said the team official, rather than the coach, would be the one to formally ask for the challenge as the potential consequences of an incorrect challenge could include a red card. This therefore protects a team from losing their coach. 

“We are putting a very useful and valuable weapon in the hands of the coaches. It is up to them whether they make good use or they try to abuse it or go around to gain some occasional advantage,” Bebetsos said. 

“It has to be understood by everyone that if this project is killed, it will be killed for many years ahead. From our side, as the EHF, we shall try to educate everyone concerned – coaches, delegates, referees – on what is the proper use or application of the coach’s challenge.” 

He said one of the reasons for introducing the coach’s challenge was in response to the increasing sophistication and use of technology with regard to handball. 

Spectators or TV viewers view things better than the referees see on the court because of technology. Our aim is to make the game fair, and to add integrity to our competitions. There are some critical situations, because referees are human, and mistakes happen. If a coach believes that such a mistake happens, either because a referee calls or they missed a call, we are giving him or her the opportunity to challenge this call. The aim is to stop the headlines and not re-referee the match. The referees are the key match officials as the referees (and not the video) will always take the final decision”, Bebetsos added. 

He said any changes which need to be made to the coach’s challenge in terms of the way it is applied and communicated will be made ahead of the EHF FINAL4, following the test on Sunday. 

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