The Norwegian Tor Lian succeeded Staffan Holmqvist as president of the EHF at the EHF Congress in Cyprus in May 2004, continuing a style of strong leadership that has become one of the hallmarks of the EHF – in the 21-year period up to 2012 there had only been two presidents and both had come from northern Europe.
At the EHF Foundation Congress in Berlin, the Swede Staffan Holmqvist, who at the time had been the president of the Swedish National Federation since 1979, was elected as the first EHF president.
Lian, like Holmqvist, belonged to the founding fathers of the EHF, an organisation which rose from the ‘western-European nations’ of ‘leading handball countries’. He had been president of the Norwegian Federation since 1985 and was a member of the EHF Executive Committee from day one.
Speaking back in 2001 ahead of the federation’s 20th anniversary , Lian remembered the first days of the EHF as well as his predecessor Staffan Holmqvist with fondness.
“Handball was Staffan Holmqvist’s life, he was a real man of action in the sport who came from one of the strongest handball nations of the time and who also enjoyed the utmost respect. His period of office was absolutely decisive for the further development of the EHF, because in this time all the foundations for everything that exists today were being laid.”
Tor Lian was born in Trondheim on June 13, 1945 and married his wife Froydis in 1968. Following his active period as a professional player (1953-1985), he moved into the realm of coaching and then into the Executive Committee of the Norwegian Handball Federation. In 1983, he was elected to the position of vice president and from 1985 until 1999 he served as president of the NHF.
In addition to the many years as board member of the Norwegian Olympic Committee, he was also on the Advisory Board at the Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1996 as well as serving as head of the Organising Committee of the IHF Women’s World Handball Championship in 1993 and 1999 in Norway.
From 2000, he served on the IHF Council and was a member of numerous IHF Working Groups. For over 20 years, Lian also worked for the top human resource agencies in the world.
Under Lian, the long-term partnership with the Swiss media rights company, Infront Sports & Media AG, flourished, guaranteeing the long-term future of the EHF’s flagship national team competition, the EHF EURO. Many crucial decisions were also reached on his watch, including the creation of EHF Marketing GmbH, the introduction of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and adaptions to the EHF structure, which have ensured the representation of the sport’s various interest groups including leagues, clubs, players and national federations.
Tributes to Tor Lian
In July 2016, the EHF had the sad duty of reporting Tor Lian’s death at the age of 71 following a long illness. At the time, the serving EHF President, Jean Brihault led the tributes to a man, who had played such a decisive role both the creation and development of the EHF.
“He was an extraordinary president and a real team-builder within the EHF,” said Brihault. “His main approach was always to make people fully responsible for their field of work which in return enabled them to do their best.
“I met first met Tor in 2000 when I was elected to the Executive Committee. We had a very constructive and friendly dialogue prior to the 2004 congress when I strongly encouraged him to run for the EHF presidency and he wished for me to become the vice president.
“When he stepped down in 2012, his wish for me was to succeed him, and I was happy to follow his wish out of friendship and of solidarity. Ever since we have been in permanent contact and became very close friends.
The EHF Secretary General, Michael Wiederer, also praised Tor Lian’s professional approach to his roles within handball.
"Ever since my first working day he has been a close partner for me," said Wiederer. "My first business trip was to Norway where he had built an exceptional organising structure within the Norwegian Handball Federation.
"Over the years we always had an open and very good cooperation. And beyond handball I always held the personal contact to him in very high esteem."