Women’s club handball season ends on a high
The 2,500 spectators present inside Papp László Budapest Sportaréna were the icing on the cake. The much-awaited return of handball fans to Europe’s arenas made two days of high-class women’s handball in Hungary’s capital even more exciting.
The last match at the DELO EHF FINAL4, which saw Vipers Kristiansand taking an emphatic 34:28 win against Brest Bretagne Handball to lift the most coveted trophy in women’s club handball, was not only the final of the DELO EHF Champions League, it was also the final match of the European women’s club handball season 2020/21.
The Covid-19 pandemic certainly did impact the competitions’ rundown since September 2020, but it was ultimately not able to stop it.
Backed up by a mandate of the EHF Executive Committee, early on the EHF’s competitions department had developed mechanisms to have matches played – while safeguarding the health of everyone involved – or in the worst-case scenario have them assessed if they could not be played.
Eventually this led to a successful finish of not only the DELO EHF Champions League, but also the inaugural seasons of the EHF European League Women and the EHF European Cup Women, the latter being won by Nantes Atlantique Handball and Rincon Fertilidad Malaga respectively.
On top, all three European Cup events proved to be hit on TV and digital media. The final matches were broadcast by between 18 (in the EHF European Cup) and 28 broadcast partners (in the DELO EHF Champions League) and reached millions on social media.
In the EHF European League, the moment Nantes Atlantique Handball lifted the trophy to celebrate their first ever European trophy was a particular hit with online fans – especially on the EHF European League Instagram account with one post reaching well over 300,000 fans.
For the DELO EHF FINAL4, the EHF Champions League’s Instagram account reached almost 2.4 million people between 29 and 31 May. Video views, which included instant classics such as the event’s MVP, Vipers’ Henny Reistad, singing along to Queen’s ‘We are the champions’, totalled at more than 1.4 million for Saturday and Sunday alone.
Female referees impress on court
Equally impressive was the performance of the referees and delegates nominated by the European Handball Federation who confidently officiated all matches no matter the ‘heat of the battle’ on court.
Following up on the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 in Denmark at which all referees nominated had been female, the same approach held true for the finals in the EHF’s three European women’s club competitions.
For the two-legged final in the EHF European Cup as well as for all matches in the EHF Finals Women and the DELO EHF FINAL4 only female referees were nominated. At the EHF Finals and the EHF FINAL4 this was backed up by the nomination of female-only delegates at the same time – several of the referees and delegates present at the club finals had been nominated back in December for the EHF EURO already.
Their performance was even more so notable as many of the usual standout pairs from, for example, France, Russia or Denmark, had not been named for these events.
"With the help of everyone involved, the staff in the EHF Office, our referees and delegates, our partners, sponsors and stakeholders and, of course, the players, we have brought this challenging season 2020/21 to a successful end," EHF President Michael Wiederer said.
"We have started to elevate European women’s handball to new heights. Despite the absence of fans in the arenas, we created excitement and engagement in our online community, and we have built a base that makes me look very positively at what’s ahead in the next season and the years to come."