New rules in beach handball: Men to play in shorts – women in hotpants

The debate around the clothes rules in women’s beach handball has intensified. A few months ago a whole world joined the debate. Several celebrities (amongst them P!nk) and the Swedish culture and sports minister Amanda Lind all expressed their support after the Norwegian national team got fined after their protest. Now the International Handball Federation (IHF) has updated the regulations and the clothes rules for women. Unfortunately the IHF has decided that women should now wear tights shorts/hotpants.
– Why did they have to use the word tight? They could have just written shorts, says Jesper Knutsson, Swedish national player and coach.

On October 3, the IHF published the new rules, rules that will come into play on January 1, 2022. Handbollskanalen has read the document and one section is particularly interesting – the one about dress code.

Among other things, it says: ”Athletes’ uniforms and accessories contribute to helping athletes increase their performance as well as remain coherent with the sportive and attractive image of the sport.”

In summary, the new rules mean that women’s players no longer have to wear match attire in the form of a bikini. Now it’s hotpants and linen that apply. But one of the problems is that there are still differences between men and women when it comes to clothing. Among other things, the new rules state that men must wear shorts while women “must wear short tight pants with a close fit.”

Jesper Knutsson is one of the driving forces in Swedish beach handball. The national team player believes that the new rules are a step in the right direction by the IHF, but questions whether it is a sufficiently large step.

–In my opinion, the change is quite big. The length of the shorts is a question of interpretation, but I think that the middle of the thighs as it says in the IHF’s text feels reasonable. But not everyone is comfortable in tight clothes and that’s where it gets weird. Why did they need to include the word ”tight” when they could have written shorts, he says and continues:

– And why has this not changed before? Are there countries that do not want development to move forward on this issue? But basically I think it’s a pretty big change because the players do not have to wear a bikini top and can wear linen instead. It is the shorts part that becomes problematic, I of course think that the ladies should have the same shorts rules as the men have.

Do you think the IHF has taken the criticism that has been, and still exists, seriously?

– If they had not taken it seriously I just think they would have turned it down. But if the issue had not been raised this summer as it did with celebrities who stepped in and debated, then the change would have taken much longer. We would probably have had to wait another couple of years.

– The IHF has always hidden behind the fact that it is very important for them that beach handball becomes an Olympic sport. That has been some kind of argument for not changing anything and for me it’s going completely crazy. It is not relevant at all.

This is what the dress code looked like before the IHF’s updated regulations:

This is what the clothes rules looked like before the change.
Photo: IHF

This is what the dress code looks like after the update:

This is what the clothes rules looked like after the change.
Photo: IHF

Jesper Knutsson finds it difficult to understand how the IHF thinks about these issues.

– What are we really talking about here? When it comes to the visual part the difference is so small between shorts and tight shorts. People will not run around in any size shorts, we on the men’s side are not allowed to do that. What’s the problem with letting the women play in shorts, just like the men? It’s so ridiculous why the IHF are not taking the whole step.

Jesper Knutsson has been active in beach handball for many years and have a lot of knowledge on who the sports has looked historically.

– There has always been a truth that says that there is a filthy committee that has made it like this. The reason why it was like this from the beginning was that the IHF took the regulations from beach volleyball straight off. Beach handball is now where beach volleyball was many years ago. I got into beach handball in 2011 and that was about when the IHF and EHF realized that they had to fix the whole set of rules.

– The IHF experienced that some players wore shorts, some wore hotpants, others wore bikinis and some wore linen. Therefore they took the regulations from beach volleyball. But the thing is that beach volleyball then deviated from those regulations and developed a greater freedom of choice when it comes to clothing around. That was somewhere around 2012–2014.

In Swedish beach handball, August Elmberg, Helene Bernhardtz, Tony Carlsson and Jesper Knutsson have worked with the issue for many years. In Sweden we have our own regulations.

– In Sweden there has never been a requirement for a dress code because we do not stand behind the IHF’s dress code. But it is very difficult for us to do anything more than speak our mind and show our position. We did just that last summer when it was the U17 championship but it was not so popular with the IHF that we spoke our mind, says Jesper Knutsson.

– It is difficult because we want the girls to be able to focus on the game and not on what clothes they should wear. They have fought to get to the national team and should be proud of it.

LINK: IHF rules of the game