PtG Article 07.05.2007

Greenland victim of foul play in regional handball federation

The Panamerican Team Handball Federation (PATHF) is not likely to win prizes this year for fair play and transparent decision-making. In contravention of the rules of the International Handball Federation (IHF), PATHF has downgraded Greenland from full to associate membership without any warning - and now teams from Greenland can no longer qualify for participation in World Championships.

When Greenland became a member of the International Handball Federation in 1999, IHF decided to place Greenland in the Panamerican Team Handball Federation together with the US, Canada and countries in Central and South America. Through PATHF tournaments, Greenland’s national team for men has qualified for the World Championships in handball three times. Most recently in 2007 where Greenland ended up as number 22.

Now PATHF has decided to downgrade Greenland’s membership, which essentially means that Greenland can no longer qualify for World Championships although teams from Greenland can take part in friendly matches or exhibition matches.

PATHF cannot change membership status

In Greenland, the Greenland Handball Federation and the Sports Confederation of Greenland are concerned about two questions. The first: does PATHF have the right to downgrade Greenland’s membership? The other: has the whole question of Greenland’s membership status been handled in an appropriate and democratic way?

The answer to the first question is simple. At its recent congress, IHF gave its full support to Greenland’s right to full membership of PATHF, writes the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. IHF also instructed the president of PATFH, Manoel Luiz Oliveira, to make sure that Greenland is restored as a full member of the Panamerican federation.

The answer to the second question is also simple: No. Instead, it appears that the leaders of the organisation have succumbed to pressure from some of the major countries in PATHF and are referring to non-exisiting resolutions as the basis for a decision that was not even communicated to its members in Greenland until the Greenland Handball Federation encountered problems in entering a team for a PATFH tournament months later.

A mysterious congress resolution

Play the Game has obtained copies of the correspondence between PATHF and the Greenland Handball Federation and the Sports Confederation of Greenland respectively.

According to PATHF, there has been a number of complaints to the organisation from countries that were knocked out of World Championship qualifications by Greenland. The complaints centre on the fact that as a self-governed Danish terrority, Greenland does not have its own Olympic Committee and the nationality of the players is Danish. Therefore teams from Greenland cannot participate in the World Championships, complainants argue.

In their letter to the Greenland Handball Federation, the president and the secretary general of PATHF then explain that the last PATHF congress issued a resolution to categorise Greenland as an associate member and approved new criteria for Greenland’s participation in the Pan-American Championships.

However, according to Jens Brinch(*), international director of the Sports Confederation of Greenland, neither he nor the Greenland Handball Federation have seen a copy of the resolution or an agenda and minutes from the PATHF congress. In fact, it appears that the only minutes from the congress are informal, but extensive notes are posted on the Internet by a participant in the congress (click here to view conference notes).

These notes mention that the status of Greenland was discussed but make no reference to a resolution.

The PATHF congress took place in November last year, but when Greenland met with the PATHF president in Germany during the recent World Championships for men, there was no mention of the resolution that was allegedly passed at the congress. In fact, Greenland only learned about PATHF’s decision when the handball federation tried to enter a team in the U21 tournament last month.

The case is brought in for arbitration at IHF

PATHF does not appear keen to defend its decision internationally either. The International Handball Federation (IHF) tried to organise two meetings about the case during its recent international congress but nobody from PATHF turned up, explains a press release on the website of the Greenland Handball Federation.

Instead the Greenland Handball Federation has brought the case in for arbitration at the International Handball Federation. It wants full membership to be restored and also a new tournament for the U21 team that missed out on the opportunity to qualify for the world championships.

In the spirit of cooperation, Greenland has also invited the US, Canada, Chile and Paraguay to a meeting with IHF and PATFH to discuss what their problems are with Greenland. 

(*) Jens Brinch is also the Chairman of Play the Game