In the ideal scenario for the organisers the 12,000 seats in Scandinavium Arena would be clad in red and yellow for the final day of the Women’s EHF EURO 2016. But even without the home team in the gold medal match, Fredrik Rapp, President of the Swedish Handball Federation is convinced the tournament will be evaluated with an extremely positive tone.
“We are very proud and happy that we have produced such a great handball event. We are very satisfied with the tournament and it has been very good handball. Always when Sweden and Norway played, there were a lot of spectators,” commented Rapp.
One of the big successes was a very high demand for the games from fans in the Swedish capital, where some other traditionally stronger sports have failed to generate larger interest.
“We were a bit worried for Stockholm, because even ice hockey or other sports were struggling to fill the arenas. But we had a really great atmosphere and excellent games there. It was almost full and that was very, very positive,” said the Swedish Federation President after large crowds supported their national team in the preliminary round in Hovet Arena.
Ticket sales double compared with 2006
“We did expect more fans down in the south of Sweden as it is easy travelling from Denmark, but they came only late to the semi-finals. But Norwegians were utterly amazing how they booked their tickets here in Gothenburg so we sold almost twice as many tickets as we did in 2006,” Rapp revealed.
Out of the maximum capacity 110,000 tickets available the organisers sold around 70 per cent – 80,000.
“We released the tickets for the medal round already in November 2015 and the Norwegian fan organisation almost immediately bought one third of it. As they had great confidence for their team, it was sure we would have a sold-out final.
“We had all hoped that the arena on Sunday would be yellow and red. Unfortunately for us, it will only be red,” Rapp commented after the host team failed to make it from the main round. A surprising setback with Slovenia in the preliminary round was followed by a defeat against Serbia and three more losses in the main round.
“Of course we had hoped more and we had a wish that we had set already a couple of years ago, that we would fight for the medals here. So especially for the players and coaches this might be a bit disappointing, because they have dreamt about this for a long time. It normally happens only once in a player’s playing time to have a EURO on the home ground, so for many girls it was the only chance,” the head of the Swedish Federation said.
Looking forward to major events in the future
Sweden’s appetite for organising big handball events is far from being sated after the EHF EURO 2016. “Who knows? Maybe we apply for the EURO in 2026. We are also preparing for the 2023 Men’s World Championship and in the same year we would like to get one group of the Women’s World Championship if the joint bid of Denmark and Norway succeeds,” Rapp revealed. “That would make one big event for us every three years and this is something we can still manage.”
However, the next major stop for international handball in Sweden will be in four years when they co-host the Men’s EHF EURO 2020 together with Norway and Austria, where 24 teams will take part for the first time in history.
“We have been given many, many lessons, but when this tournament is over we will have to sit down and analyse everything together with the EHF and also on our own. Even if you do really a good EURO there are always things to improve.
“For the men’s EURO, we will move to larger arenas and it will be twice as big a challenge to fill them up. As we are going to host it together with other countries some logistical issues will certainly appear too,” Swedish president commented.
None of the Swedish hosting aspirations could come to life without a strong base of volunteers, which the country can take a lot of pride in.
“Every arrangement like a EURO needs a lot of volunteers. There are many things you would never think, but volunteers do really heavy work. Without them it would not be possible to host the EURO. They made a great effort in helping us deliver this event to spectators,” Rapp concluded.