Friday, 31 August 2012

The Hull Handball League (Part 3) The first ever GB team

Hull was not only the location of the first handball league in Britain; it was also where the first ever Great Britain representative team played. The status of this representation is not clear; on the one hand there was no official Handball Association but on the other hand the Hull league was recognized by the IHF. It is reported by the Hull Daily Mail that Great Britain played Holland on Sunday 28 June 1959 at the Costello Stadium in West Hull.

Syd Cowan, who played in the game, explained that the Dutch were much better but that the score was kept down by the brilliant goalkeeping of Billy Bly. Cowan said "I played in this game and have one of the commemorative plaques. The Dutch players handled the ball and moved it quicker than us and ran into open spaces. When they shot at goal they took the ball on the move and leaped and hurled the ball down from about nine feet high - no wonder Billy looked a bit downcast towards the end".

One of the officials on the day, Ron Lister, explained that a further international took place, this time against Germany in 1960 and Cowan adds that the team also traveled to Germany to play a team from Freiburg. The team which played Freiburg are lined up in the poor quality photograph below which, was published in the Hull Daily Mail. The photograph, dated August 1960, is almost certainly the oldest in existence of a handball team in Britain.

A page from the programme of the international in 1959 (shown below) confirms that the game played in Hull 50 years ago was in fact the 11-a-side version of handball. There is not much footage of this version of handball but this short clip shows a game between East Germany and Austria from the same period.

A page from the 1959 Great Britain - Holland programme

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Hull Handball League 1958-62 (part 2)

Sir Clive Woodward recently tweeted that handball is the ideal second sport for football and rugby teams. Well the truth is that for a few years around 50 years ago it was ... in Hull.

In an article published in the Hull Daily Mail on 31 March 2003 a former player, Syd Cowan reflected on the years that Hull had had its own handball league, made a point of the variety of sports represented. Syd himself was a Rugby League player but he also referred to rugby union players, the boxer Wally Mays and the netball player Pat Hamblyn. However, he explained that handball attracted "many local and professional footballers" because it was ideal for maintaining fitness over the summer months. Two names of footballers he mention are the Hull City players Frank Harrison and goalkeeper Billy Bly.

Handball in Hull lasted for just four years. It is clear that it was introduced in 1958 by Dr Seewald while Syd reports that the Division One Shield was last contested in 1962 after which "sadly the game petered out." There is no mention of any silverware in 1958 which is not surprising given the fact that it had only just been introduced however in 1959 a tournament was organised with a team by the name of Asbestos winning the trophy. In 1961 the full league was organised and the Shield winners were Crawfords Sports. The second and final year of the league saw Hull Boys Club win the Shield.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Hull Handball League 1958-62 (part 1)

The British Handball Association was founded in Liverpool in 1967, however, a decade before this records show that a handball league had been recognised by the IHF in Britain. A small history lesson published in Handball News around 1980 (see below) shows an extract from the IHF handbook page 123 of September 1960 listing the existence of a handball league being played in Hull in 1960. The contact is Dr L M Seewald who had introduced handball to Hull during 1958, Dr Seewald was also the author of the 24 page book 'Continental Handball: Official international rules' which was also published in 1958. 

Extract from the International Handball Federation handbook September 1960 which appeared in Handball News from around 1980.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tom Smith former Brentwood keeper interviewed last year

An article published last year in the Brentwood Gazette in which Brentwood '72 goalkeeper of the 1970s and 1980s Tom Smith talks about his time playing and coaching. Here is the Link

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Governing body hits on Wikipedia

How do you measure the level of interested generated by different sports during the Olympics? I'm sure MORI or IPOS are being commissioned to carry out surveys to measure people's attitudes but a crude insight into the level of interested is whether people can be bothered to find out a bit more and maybe investigate the governing bodies of sports. One method by which people do this is to search Wikipedia. Fortunately, data is available for the number of hits a Wikipedia page receives each day and this has today been analysed to compare the 30 day period since 15 July. It should first be noted that a few governing bodies still do not have Wikipedia pages e.g. Weightlifting and others have governing bodies which do not exist at a British level e.g. Badminton and Football.

So which British governing body has received the most hits in the past 30 days? With 11,897 hits cycling wins hands down, although it needs to be remembered that some of the hits will have resulted from the exceptional performance of British cyclists during the Tour de France. So we move on the the silver medal and ... Yes! The page British Handball Association with 3,453 views beats UK Athletics (3,153), British Swimming (2269) and British rowing (2173).

A little like the claims that Scotland and Yorkshire make about where they would come in the medal table, England Handball would have been fourth with 2459. Finally, Scottish Handball (568) had more views than the British governing body pages for five other Olympic sports.

England - Scotland Internationals Required Urgently!

The London Olympics are over and everything indicates that handball has been one of the big successes of the games. Sell out crowds attended the Copper Box and Basketball Arena creating one of the best atmospheres for any sport, there was a television audience which rivalled those for judo and water polo and journalists and broadcasters continually raved about this undiscovered sport. Sir Clive Woodward has even suggested in a tweet that ‘all team sports should play handball as their second sport’.

So what about the legacy? During the course of the Olympics new teams and interest started to appear almost every day - 'Anyone interested in starting a team in Sunderland?', 'We've just started a team in Aberystwyth.' and Telford Handball Club has appeared on Facebook to give just three examples. This is a good start, however as Daly Thompson pointed out, if sports don't act immediately then all the free publicity will be for nothing.

So here are a few points:

It's good news that a teams such as Liverpool and Rutland are involved in the Join in UK initiative but why isn't handball listed on the drop down menu of sports to choose from? 'I want to try handball ... oh it's not on the menu.' Yes, it's about trying local sport but maybe some people would be willing to travel to Liverpool or Rutland to give it a go if they knew the session was on. With no handball on the menu they can't.

Wikipedia is mocked by many but it's where many people go to get their information and then follow links. There has been a massive surge in hits on handball related pages including that for the BHA and EHA. It is quite normal nowadays that organisation manage their Wikipedia pages, so that links work and information is accurate and useful. The EHA link was broken on Wikipedia until a few days ago when I noticed this and fixed it.

Finally, we need a follow up event that will serve as a bridge to raise interest again before the new handball season starts and before the Olympics are forgotten about. If it is not planned then how about an England Scotland International day featuring the male and female teams? Or how about something similar to the Rugby League where the Great Britain teams would take on the best of the English and Scottish Leagues? Better still let's have both of these events. The public would see their Olympic handball heroes in action while they can still remember the names.

Given the way that the BBC is currently raving about handball they will surely put the licence fee money where their mouths are!