SPANISH sportswomen have been angered by the European handball rules that force female players to participate in skimpy bikinis.
Players have accused sports officials of capitalising on their bodies to lure spectators to the sport and they feel the focus is not on the game anymore.
The European Handball regulations state that female players have to wear bikini tops and bottoms that are no wider than 10cm and that their stomachs must be left exposed. Adding insult to injury, players have been threatened with penalties if they cover up and can even face suspension. Tensions flared after officials warned the Spanish Handball Federation that in a recent match 21 out of 22 female teams were caught wearing kit that covered up too much of the body and penalties would have to be imposed if this occurred again in the future.
Whilst the rule may seem intent on using the player’s bodies as a feature to attract attention, it doesn’t allow for much sponsorship space or team branding and potential sponsorship brands like Riverbelle, Adidas, Actavis etc. who may be looking to endorse the teams are left with little advertising space. This is not what’s upset players though, they are angry because they are being threatened for not following rules that claim to be for the good of the sport, yet male players are allowed to wear ‘loose and long’ clothing when competing.
Spain’s Basque Handball Association has laid an official complaint with the European Commission and has stated that the rules do not seem intent on promoting better play, but rather on using the girl’s bodies to draw spectators to the sport, and the ruling has nothing to do with sporting value. The Basque campaign has also been taken up by MEP’s who have called the rules old fashioned and sexist, and said that they put the appearance of players ahead of their technical abilities.
The Basque campaigners have already won one round of their battle with Spain’s main sporting council denouncing the rules as sexist and going on to allow female beach handball players the chance to choose their own team kit for competing in national matches.
European handball rules look set to be adjusted as there is little justification that can keep the current regulations in place, and with the backing of MEP’s it will be harder to ignore the women’s teams’ ire.