Wiederer: “We are all handball enthusiasts”

Michael Wiederer has been involved in handball for decades. He played club handball in Vienna as well internationally for the Austrian national team before entering the governing side of the sport and becoming Secretary General of the Austrian Handball Federation.

Since 1992 he has been the Secretary General of the European Handball Federation. At the EHF Congress 2016 on Thursday (17 November) he was elected EHF President, succeeding Jean Brihault who had held the position from 2012 to 2016.

Michael Wiederer, following more than 20 years as Secretary General of the European Handball Federation, you have just been elected the federation's president. What was it like for you to make this step?
“It is an honour for me to follow in the footsteps of three successful presidents of the EHF (Stefan Holmqvist, Tor Lian, Jean Brihault). Furthermore, I feel that the trust that I have been given by the Congress obliges me even more to do my best – together with the Executive Committee and the Commissions – and to continue driving handball in a successful future.”

Now that a long career chapter has come to an end,how would you summarise your 20+ years as the Secretary General of the EHF
That's pretty easy: About one year of my life I have spent at EHF EURO events. I have attended 135 meetings of the Executive Committee and probably spent two years of my life in meetings of various kinds. And looking ahead, there will be a few more coming.

Besides the meetings, what are the immediate challenges that lie ahead?
We are living in a fast-paced environment. It is said in business that changes that previously took five years to come to completion, now take place in one year. This holds true for our sport on the court as well as on the organisational level.

What does this mean for, for example, the EHF's top competitions such as the EHF EURO and the EHF Champions League?
These top competitions have to be constantly in our focus. They are not only functioning as the show cases of our sport, but also delivering the basis for all kinds of marketing activities in order to maintain and improve the position of handball. We will have to develop a strategy for the marketing of these activities, understanding that all of our contracts will expire in 2020 and that the negotiations will start in 2017.

In a first step, this needs a clarification of the direction to take, understanding that the success of the EHF's activities is directly linked to the economic questions on a European level and the level of the national federations and their clubs.

How does this affect what happens behind the scenes, internal procedures, the cooperation with partners?
None of these tasks mentioned can be successfully carried out and – even more important – completed without the work delivered on a technical level, internally and with our partners. For this we must provide resources as well as understanding that the achievements can serve the global handball community.

Touching the field of competitions directly and the game environment, which includes the players' workload as well as preparation timings and activities, the analysis on a scientific level has already begun and will serve a basis for the 2017 Scientific Conference.

Can you name an overarching goal, a guiding principle, facing these challenges?
All has to be done in the light of a targeted competitive balance in European handball: the closer the sporting results on the court are, the more valuable our sport will be. In this respect, the initiative for the Men's EHF EURO 2020 with 24 teams and the accompanying measures have to be highlighted, and a careful evaluation process on the women's handball side has to follow.

Over the coming years, you will have to bring together various stakeholders with potentially diverging interest. How do you unite them?
I think that in the end, just like I said at the congress, what unites is that we are all handball enthusiasts. We share the enthusiasm for the sport and this includes the task to maintain and drive our sport forward, the interest to improve handball in every aspect, the readiness to contribute to this process and therefore the will to create. What counts is that we are ready to work for the future of handball.

The EHF Congress will conclude with the celebrations for the 25-year-anniversary of the European Handball Federation. In a nutshell, how do you look back at this quarter of a century of European handball governance?
“Without doubt, we can label the development of the EHF, starting from zero in 1991, a success story to which many people have contributed, on the national level as well as on the international level. Hence the gala evening itself will be a reason to celebrate. At the same time, while looking back, we also constantly judge where we are and look ahead. There is a saying: 'You have to know the past, to understand the present, in order to shape the future.”