Norway beach handball team: why were Norwegian players fined for wearing shorts at European Championships?

The European Handball Federation said that the Norwegian team had broken the rules due to their ‘improper clothing’

The Norwegian female beach handball team has been fined by the European Handball Federation (EHF) for playing a game in shorts instead of bikini bottoms during the European Beach Handball Championships in Bulgaria.

The Norwegian Handball Federation has vowed to continue to fight for the right for its players to wear shorts instead of bikini bottoms.

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What happened?

On Sunday 18 July, Norway faced off against Spain during a bronze medal match.

The team opted to wear athletic shorts instead of the federation standard of bikini bottoms for female players.

The team was therefore found to have breached the rules of the game, as the official regulations state that women have to wear bikini bottoms when competing.

Norwegian handball team captain Katinka Haltvik told Norweigian media outlet NRK that the decision for the team to wear shorts was “very spontaneous” and that they “felt threatened by the regulations”.

The team chose to wear shorts instead of bikini bottoms during their match against Spain (Photo: Norwegian Handball Federation)

She said: “People cheered on us for going in front of several teams and taking the brunt. Not all teams can afford to pay such fines.

“[Handball] should be an inclusive sport, not an exclusive one.”

What did the European Handball Federation say?

A statement from the EHF said: “The disciplinary commission at the Beach Handball Euro 2021 has dealt with a case of improper clothing.

“In the bronze medal game against Spain on Sunday the team of Norway played with shorts that are not according to the athlete uniform regulations defined in the IHF Beach Handball rules of the game.

“The disciplinary commission decided to impose a fine of 150 euros per play, for a total of 1,500 euros.”

What did the Norwegian Handball Federation say?

In response to the fine, the NHF has said that it will stand by its athletes, and continue to lobby for a change in the dress code for athletes.

The NHF Tweeted: “We are very proud of these girls who during the European Championships raised their voices and announced that enough is enough!

“We at NHF stand behind you and support you. Together we will continue to fight to change the rules of clothing, so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with.”

In an interview with Insider, Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio said: “We’ve tried, in a mild way, to try and get them to understand, but this has increased year by year by year. I became president in 2016 and every summer after I’ve been talking about this.

“We were told this was an issue in the beginning of the champions, that they would be prohibited to use the shorts they wanted. We decided that the girls could decide this and we will support them whatever they decide.

“They decided first to play in the bikini so that they wouldn’t get thrown out or anything like that. Then they decided that they would show their view by playing in shorts in the last game.

“I got the message from them 10 minutes before the match and told them we’re okay with that and we’ll pay the fine.”

What is the dress code for players?

According to the International Handball Federation (IHF), “women should wear a bikini where the top should be a tight-fitting sports bra with deep openings at the arm” and “the bottom must not be more than 10 centimeters on the side”.

Alternatively, male players are able to wear “tight-fitting tank tops” and shorts that are simply “not too baggy” and “10 centimeters above the kneecap”.

Lio that the dress code has been around since 2005 - but Norwegian officials have been complaining about the rules to the EHF since 2006.

Speaking to Norway’s Dagbladet paper, Lio said that the EHF has accepted a recent proposition to change the dress code regulations, which he had hoped would have been implemented before the European Championships kicked off.

What has the reaction been like?

The team has seen a huge outpouring of support for the players, as people online have posted their thoughts about the situation.

Abid Raga, the Norwegian Minister of Culture and Gender Equality, wrote on Twitter that the fine was “completely ridiculous” and that the EHF doesn’t “understand the point of equality”.

One person Tweeted: “Utterly ridiculous rule. Good for the Norwegian Handball Federation - hope others follow suit until the rule is changed.”

Another wrote: “If you can tell me why the ‘shorts' would be unacceptable to play in (other than making the sport less ‘sexy’) then please do explain. Otherwise, the rule is misogynistic and archaic.”

“So a women’s handball team has been fined a lot of money for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms… are we to expect new rules to be released that men shall wear budgie smugglers instead of shorts now? You know, equality and all that,” Tweeted another.

French national coach Valérie Nicolas also offered up support for the team, telling the Verden Gang newspaper: “We have lost players due to the suits. The players tell me they are uncomfortable, feel naked, and watched.”

What is beach handball?

Beach handball is a team sport which see’s two teams face off against each other, by passing, bouncing or rolling a ball and trying to score in the goal of the opposite team.

Each team has three players, plus one goalkeeper, and can have up to six substitutes.

The court is split into three zones - goal area of team A, the playing area and the goal area of team B. The court is 27 metres long, and 12 metres wide.

Beach handball is played in two separate 10 minute periods, with a five minute break in between - each period needs to have a winner.

If each team has won a period, then a shootout is needed to decide the winner of the match.

The scoring system for beach handball goes as follows:

- A regular goal is one point

- An attractive or spectacular goal is two points

- In-flight or spin shot goals are two points

- Goal by a specialist is two points

- Goal by the goalkeeper is two points

- A six metre goal is also two points

The team with the most points wins.