PtG Article 10.06.2009

World handball: charges of ingrained corruption

Top Swedish handball referee and administrator Christer Ahl was supposed to fly to last weekend’s International Handball Federation (IHF) congress in Cairo. However, an increasing disillusionment with that body led to him addressing the Play the Game conference instead.

Ahl, whose official title was Playing Rules and Competition Commission President, expressed deep concern over the way the sport is currently run. Corruption and lack of accountability are rife within the IHF, he claimed, with power concentrated in the hands of a small, unrepresentative minority which maintains power through the denial of democracy and open debate.

Over the past ten years, he said, the IHF has almost tripled its income. Televised games are more popular than ever. However, all recent media stories about handball have been concerned with off-the-field activities. The root of the problem, he claimed, can be traced back to IHF president Hassan Moustafa. According to Ahl, Moustafa is a power-hungry autocrat who values no opinion other than his own.

Much of his criticism was reserved for the structure of the IHF’s ruling council where, he said, decisions are made based on power and politics rather than reason and merit. Smaller countries with few registered players have the same representation as countries like Germany, with many thousands - a misrepresentation that keeps Moustafa and his allies in power.

Supporters and athletes have no representation at all, he added, and both the IHF’S Secretary-General and the only women on the council have been ostracised for attempting to speak out against Moustafa.

Although he presented little in the way of proof, Ahl spoke of his suspicion that matches had been fixed by corrupt referees who were then fast tracked to the top of their profession. He also accused Moustafa of receiving reimbursements without presenting receipts.

Ahl concluded with a plea for the formation of a new international body to investigate corruption in sports federations that is independent of the IOC.

Challenger gagged

After the IHF congress in Cairo re-elected Mustafa as president last weekend, the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that his only challenger, Jean Kaiser of Luxembourg, had been prevented from speaking to delegates.

According to the report, Kaiser claimed he was hindered in his  presentation by being forced to use a microphone that could be remotely switched off by Mustafa – which the president did on frequent occasions. Kaiser is now considering an official complaint about the way the election was handled.