Friday, 12 August 2016

Interest in Handball After One Week of Rio 2016

The Rio Olympics are now a week old and a good time to analyse the interest in handball raised by the Games. A quick way to get a window on this is to analyse the Wikipedia views that national associations receive. As might be expected Olympic Sports in which Team GB is doing well which are also popular in the UK are gaining hundreds of hits per day. For example as was the case four years ago the British Cycling page has well over 100 hits per day and went over 450 with the first gold in the velodrome yesterday evening. Similarly the British Swimming page is averaging well over 100 hits per day, bolstered by success in the pool. But when we turn to handball and compare it with some of the other minority team ball games and some of the minority sport in which Team GB has done well, handball is gaining a great deal of interest.

The table below shows a selection of Wikipedia page views from the first week of the Rio Olympics taken from British and English governing body and national association pages (due to time Scottish, Welsh & Northern Irish data could not be analysed). It should be noted that England Fencing does not have a Wikipedia page and British Rowing also acts as the governing body for England. The data shows that page views of the England Handball and British Handball Wikipedia pages compare excellently against the other sports shown. In fact so far the only days on which the England Handball Wikipedia page has not had the most views of these pages are 7 August when Team GB Fencing almost won Bronze and British Fencing Association had 170 views and 11 August when Team GB Rowing won a silver and the British Rowing Wikipedia page had 88 views compared with 74 views for England Handball. So in total the two handball pages have had 639 views which is more than double any of the others shown apart from Rowing on 363.
Wikipedia National Association Page Views
As predicted in a previous post, 'Can Rio Give Handball Another Boost?', the exposure that handball is getting due to the organisation of the schedule is a great advantage. Those surfing through the options online of which sport to watch are as likely to encounter handball as any other sport since the programme is across the day and also throughout the games. There are some points in the evening when handball makes it on to the featured options and also the BBC Red Button. This was true yesterday evening between the Cycling finishing in the Velodrome and the Late Swimming session. In this period there were only five live sports and as a result Slovenia's defeat of Sweden was featured on the Rio 2016 landing page.

Now that the Athletics is starting and the Cyclists look to be hitting form it will be interesting to see if handball can maintain this level of views.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Sir Steve Redgrave and Handball

The EHA, the governing body of handball in England, has today reported that Sir Steve Redgrave has spoken in the Radio Times about how impressed he is with handball. In the report he mentions that he went to see handball during the Athens Olympics and was really impressed. What he appears to have forgotten is a little remembered regional sports programme made during the mid-1980s in which two towns played each other at a variety of sports. Now it may have been that the show never made it past the pilot. It certainly didn't survive for a second series if it was commissioned and would not have been shown nationally. Anyway, handball was one of the sports and Sir Steve was the celebrity sportsperson for one of the towns, it may have been Reading. Does anyone remember the name of the programme?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Can Rio Give Handball Another Boost?

The Rio Olympics are almost upon us and with it the four yearly chance for handball to grab the public’s attention and showcase what it has to offer. This opportunity was never greater than in 2012 when, as hosts, Team GB was permitted to field teams across the entire range of sports. Handball was one of the major beneficiaries of this when, for the first time, the men and women’s British teams were able to take part in a top level international competition. Handball made the most of this opportunity by gaining unprecedented publicity for the sport. Millions watched on the television, new clubs, such as Coventry, immediately sprang up around the country, the governing body had more hits on Wikipedia than any other except for cycling and even Sir Clive Woodward caught the bug, tweeting about the virtues of handball on more than one occasion, labelling handball as “a proven start in creating co-ordination” and expressing the view that handball should be adopted as a second sport by all of those playing team sports.

In the intervening years, between the 2012 and 2016 games, handball has had an uneven rise. Immediately after the London Olympics the governing body for handball in England, the EHA, reported a near quadrupling of participation over the period 2010-2012. However, this coincided with UK Sport withdrawing all funding for elite British handball leading to the closing of the senior international programme. At grassroots level the growth of the sport has been phenomenal with the EHA reporting school participation in England rising from 25 teams in 2010 to 285 in 2014 and over 900 in 2015. This was helped by £1.2 million funding received from Sport England for the period 2013-17.

The rapid expansion in the number of schools in England adopting handball has been aided by the sport’s recognition in GCSE PE. However, the attraction of handball to physical educators is not only for its novelty value and place in the curriculum; the sport is being adopted because of a variety of benefits that it brings. In an article published last month, ‘Spicing up your curriculum’ by Adolfo Ramos and Keri Esslinger, the writers describe handball as feeling fresh but that it integrates many principles of more traditional sports. In it they summarise some of these benefits, noting that handball develops basic skills and provides participants with a workout in which they may run up to three miles in a series of short bursts of energy over the period of an hour. In addition, they point out that the sport helps youngsters develop decision-making and problem solving and can even contribute to their appreciation of diversity since handball is popular across the globe and particularly in continental Europe. Add to these benefits the fact that handball is usually played indoors and so is rarely a victim of the weather and the relative ease and frequency with which scoring takes place compared with other popular team ball games and the attraction of introducing handball becomes apparent.

So, four years on from London, what position is handball in to exploit the potential boost of the Rio Olympics? There will be no British teams to follow this time around but even if funding had been available for full Team GB squads, they would not have made the progress required to qualify in such a short time frame. On the other hand, since handball is not starting from the relatively low awareness based of four years ago, more people may be encouraged to watch, having been introduced to it since 2012. A major drawback for handball has often been the size of court required; only a small proportion of sports halls in the UK are built to the dimensions required (40 by 20 metres). However, this year the EHA has introduced the ‘Try Handball’ initiative which has been designed to introduce more flexibility to the way that handball is played and importantly encourages play in more limited spaces. Importantly, the coaching base has also expanded so that when the Olympics have finished there will be more available to take advantage of any interest generated as well as many more teachers aware of what the sport has to offer. Handball will also benefit from being one of the few sports that takes place across the whole of the games and across the whole of the sporting day. Until the advent of the red button and the Internet we were lucky if we had more than the final 30 seconds of the final broadcast on TV. Also, it will be featured in the major holiday event I am Team GB on Saturday 27 August.

So, 6 to 21 August, the duration of the handball tournament in Rio, may well be the most important 16 days that British handball has had since London 2012 despite there being no British teams in the tournament. It remains to be seen if these Games will give the sport the boost it needs to grow even faster but given the wider participation, and the advances outlined, even a small proportion of the publicity handball attracted in 2012 should enable it to take advantage.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The End of Brentwood '72

An article from the Times of 20 September 1985 by Paul Harrison which explains why the reigning league and cup champions of the day, Brentwood '72, were unable to continue.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Some key moments in the history of British Handball from an article by Joshua Drake published in 2013.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Handball on TV

The 2012 Olympics were not the first occasion that handball had featured on domestic TV in the UK. As far back as the 1970s the sport was featured on the Saturday afternoon sports programmes Grandstand (BBC1) and World of Sport (ITV). In this cutting from the Guardian of 21 February 1976 the TV schedule shows a handball international between Great Britain and Poland is listed as starting at 1 o'clock. However, the feature was a short one with the News listed as starting at 1.10!

The match was played at Picketts Lock Sports Centre with the result Great Britain 11 - Poland 55.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

GLSE Select's first ever game in 1981

In celebration of GD playing Ruislip in the Copper Box one year on from the Olympics, this post shows a very brief report of the first game played by the GLSE Select team on Saturday 30 May 1981. The team took on a visiting Swiss police team and went down by 34-17. The team line up shows four players from Ruislip Eagles and three from Great Dane. The report appeared in the first edition of the GLSE Handball News in October 1981 on page 13.