Thursday, July 21, 2005

Just How Popular is Team Handball?

I am frequently amused, and also sympathetic, to various rants I have seen or heard related to lack of Team Handball broadcasts on TV. Usually, these rants are along the lines of “If I see one more showing of (insert obscure sport here) I’m going to flip out. Don’t they know that the rest of the world loves Handball?

Well, while I concur that Curling is not a sport and the World’s Strongest Man is a silly, albeit strangely compelling competition, the sad fact is, is that those sports have a greater following in the United States. In fact, depending on how you want to define a sport’s popularity, Team Handball is down in the pecking order in the rest of the world as well. An oft-quoted comment is that Team Handball is the world’s second most popular sport after, of course, soccer. I’m not the first person to see that quote and think, “Oh really.” The folks at this website
http://www.johann-sandra.com/popular.htm
even tried to quantify sport popularity. Of course, as they discovered, this is not a simple task and it depends on what metrics you use.

The IOC even spent more time and energy to produce the following report:
http://www.olympic.org/uk/news/media_centre/full_story_uk.asp?release=1349
Based on the metrics used in the report, which while not perfect, are quantifiable, it’s hard to make a case for a very high number for handball on simply the Olympics Sports Program. Team Handball did survive the axe, so at least we know 150 IOC delegates think it’s better than Baseball and Softball.

My own perspective is that there are a few countries in the world, mostly in Europe, where Team Handball has a significant level of popularity. But even this popularity in Europe has to be viewed in the context of a comparatively speaking, more diverse sports scene. I will not try to measure the sport's popularity on an entire continent, but I do feel that I can speak with some authority on France, now that I’ve lived here 3 years.

Handball in France certainly has a significant level of popularity here and the National Teams have enjoyed success in the past few years including both men’s and women’s World Championships. That being said, it’s clear to me that Handball is behind Soccer, Rugby, and Basketball in terms of popularity. And just a notch above volleyball. This is based on newspaper coverage, television coverage, match attendance, and participation. And I’m not even considering sports such as Tennis, Formula 1, motorcycle racing, rally racing, bicycling and petanque. When you put into context that France has the 3rd most developed Professional League, after Germany and Spain, and consistently top notch National Teams what does that say about a sports overall popularity?

Well, I think it can be safely said that it’s not the world’s 2nd most popular sport. What would be more accurate is to say that Team Handball is a dynamic sport with a significant hard core dedicated fan base in many European and North African countries. Which, when you think about it, that really isn’t too bad of a thing to say. Now if we could just expand that to include North America we could get a little more TV coverage. Or does the TV coverage have to come first?

12 Comments:

At July 25, 2005, Anonymous bjoern said...

I think the "2nd most popular" is always meant as "team sport". In Germany, handball beats Basketball by a small and both Rugby and Volleyball by a huge margin in terms of coverage, participation and attendance.
In Germany, the "2nd most popular team sport" definitely holds true.
It's also true that Formula 1 racing, Tennis and Biking get more coverage during their special events, but they're also less frequent than handball games. I total, there are probably more handball games covered than Formula 1 races, but I doubt the total number of viewers would be higher. Moreover, the number of channels covering the races is higher.
The metrics are indeed not so easy...

 
At October 18, 2005, Anonymous mark/oldgoalie said...

Euro Handball should follow the example of Aussie Rules Football. I started watching it in the '70s and it is still on today. How did they accomplish this with absolutely no fan base here in the USA? By having the games sponsored by the Australian Tourist Board, and Foster's [which, since it is BEER, Americans recognize]. Cheaply done by being on late night, but catching the 2nd shift workers and college students intrigued by Foster's name and the "shrimp on the barbie" commercials, and desperate for any thing to watch. I know each European country has a tourist board, and there probably is an EU board also. Europe has a large stake in the American tourist dollar [and it is a lot closer and cheaper than flying to Aussieland] , and if the overall board,a few National organizations [DHB,etc], and some BEER makers who already have a US market presence, started sponsoring a late night "Game of the Week" with a short update/info on leagues/competitions [Aussie Rules does this, and during the '70s there was program called "Soccer Made in Germany" that replayed games and cut enough of the game to allow a recap of the Budesliga at the end, and still stay within the time frame] I am sure it would be worth their Euro to spend. Especially since there are a lot more Europeans here in the US going to school, working, or immigrated here that know handball, than there are Australians that miss their "Footie". I emailed Fox Sports World [now Fox Soccer Channel] just before the Nationals this year and asked for coverage. They stated their mandate was for soccer first, the rugby and cricket, and motor sports. They said there was not enough footage [or interest] to cover handball. [They do also cover Aussie rules, but in separate shows, not in the daily sports show], I informed them there was plenty of footage in Europe, but they failed to respond. If there was a weekly show, the possibility to getting a short segment on the daily report would go up [especially if the above organizations would sponsor a 5 minute segment]. People in the US who already watch the sports on FSC would be a good target audience for Team Handball

 
At July 13, 2009, Blogger rduht said...

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At December 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

team handball is most amazing sport in the world , i love team handball , i love beach team handball and i like to see world cup sweden in usaaa ¡¡¡¡

 
At December 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love nikola karabatic , i love daniel narcisse , i love filip jicha , i love julen aginagalde

 
At January 18, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Handball is without a doubt the second most popular sport in Icealand. Even the most popular sport when the national team is playing.

 
At December 18, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Handball is the 2nd most popular sport in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

 
At October 22, 2012, Anonymous Mister Shawn said...

Hello, you own such a cool blog, on this one! I also wanted to ask you something about this blog. Is it a premium blog theme which you buy or a free one?

 
At December 09, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now if you would write a piece on water-polo, please would you? .

 
At October 22, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Handball is a players sport, not a spectators sport, imho.

 
At June 05, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even ice hockey is a lot more popular sport (attendance, player salaries, media coverage) than handball in Europe.

 
At February 01, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a global sence, handball is a marginal sport cause there is less than 10 countries in the world take it seriously enough. That's just a fact

 

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