For the first time since his election in November 2016, Michael Wiederer will award the Men’s EHF EURO trophy, in his position as President of the European Handball Federation. In this interview with ehf-euro.com, the Austrian draws his conclusions on the EHF EURO 2018 and looks ahead to the next challenge, when 24 teams meet in three different countries in 2020.
ehf-euro.com: Before the medal matches on the final day of the EHF EURO throw off, what is your opinion of this event?
Michael Wiederer: This was a very positive event with a great atmosphere. Everybody could see the enthusiasm of the organisers in the whole country. This contribution of everybody involved made the EHF EURO 2018 a great success. The cooperation with the Croatian Handball Federation was perfect.
For sure, those thousands of fans from the neighbouring countries played a great role. On the other hand, the fact that the hosts missed the semi-final was a challenge for organisers in terms of audience.
As Croatia had hosted the EHF EURO 2000 already, this was the first chance to compare. We saw that the development of European championships is huge, fast and goes in the right direction.
ehf-euro.com: What was your personal highlight of the EHF EURO 2018?
Michael Wiederer: There was not a single highlight, but many. I have seen matches in all four venues and I could see great atmosphere all over the country. Of course, the Croatian fans were brilliant in supporting their team.
Aside from the many great games, side events belong to my personal highlights. We had a conference with the presidents of all EHF member federations and discussed two major topics – the marketing and TV rights tender process, and the general structure of the EHF beyond 2020. And of course, a European championship is the best place for many more meetings, like with representatives of leagues or clubs.
ehf-euro.com: Did you expect Sweden and Spain to face each other in the final?
Michael Wiederer: Those two finalists are a surprise, as neither were among the main contenders before the start of the EHF EURO. World champions France, Olympic champions Denmark, defending European champions Germany and Croatia as the hosts were the favourites for most of the experts before the tournament started – but this surprise final proves the great level of European handball.
Every team can beat any team. Most of the matches were decided only in the last minute or even with the last shot. For example, if Sweden would have scored one goal less or conceded one goal more in their final main round match against Norway, they would not play for gold today. So, my anticipation for the final day is huge.
ehf-euro.com: The EHF EURO 2018 is the last with 16 teams. From the next tournament – 2020 in Sweden, Austria and Norway – on, 24 teams will be part of the competition. What is the current status in terms of preparation, and is it harder to cooperate with three organisers than with only one?
Michael Wiederer: At first, the way to find this solution was different. Sweden, Austria and Norway had single bids for a tournament with 16 teams. The EHF then organised a meeting with all of them to present the idea of having a tournament with 24 teams and three organisers. After several analyses of the circumstances and the opportunities, all agreed on a joint bid, which was then confirmed by the 2014 Congress in Dublin.
From that moment on, the three organisers and the EHF cooperated in a great way. I am sure that this event will be a great success and that Europe has the quality for a championship with 24 participants. You see it here in Croatia: The top level in European handball is growing, many more teams are among the top nations. I am sure that European handball will grow in the future.