Canada: Beach handball players win battle over uniform rules
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On July 18, 2021, the Norwegian beach handball team was sanctioned for wearing sports shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms during the bronze medal match at this year’s European Beach Handball Championship against Spain in Bulgaria. Shortly after, in light of the team’s stance against the mandatory dress code, the European Handball Federation (EHF) Disciplinary Committee reacted by issuing fines of €150 to each of the 10 players in the team, which sparked widespread outrage in international sport.
In a significant U-turn, on October 3, 2021, the International Handball Federation (IHF) released new regulations relating to uniform requirements for female athletes. In accordance with IHF Section 2 Athlete Dress Regulations (the “Regulations“), women are now required to wear “short tight pants with a slim fit” and a “body-fitting tank top” during competition. Under previous uniform rules, female athletes were required to wear bottoms “with a snug, cut fit on an upward angle towards the top of the leg.” Thus, any female athlete found not to have followed this rule could be fined or disqualified, as the EHF did.
The recent update to the IHF rules on women’s uniforms was the result of significant pressure from the international sporting community, including various athletes, coaches and stakeholders. During the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio and International Handball Federation President Hassan Moustafa held backstage meetings to discuss the issue of women’s uniforms and of the agency. of female athletes. Shortly after these discussions, the IHF accepted the requested changes and took immediate action.
Regarding the new Regulations, President Lio underlines the common sense of the revised approach, saying: “I think it’s good for the game, but first of all it’s good for the women, and it’s good for the way we we deal in sports.” President Lio further reports that Norwegian athletes are very happy with the move away from previous regulation bikinis and their new agency for choosing the length of their shorts. Ultimately, the IHF’s decision to update its Uniform Rules sets an important precedent in international sport and represents an important step in the continued resistance against gender inequality in sport.
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