Appointed in 2017, Martin Hausleitner is currently enjoying his first Women’s EHF EURO as Secretary General of the European Handball Federation. Of course, he is everything but new to the major women’s event in national team handball, as he has held the position of Secretary General at the Austrian Handball Federation for two decades since 1997.
With the tournament now heading to Paris for the final weekend, ehf-euro.com caught up with Hausleitner to talk through the tournament - and beyond.
ehf-euro.com: With the main round completed, what is your opinion on the EHF EURO 2018 so far?
Martin Hausleitner: We are having one of the best, and probably the best, Women’s EHF EURO of all time. We are happy that we could welcome so many fans in the arenas. And we are very satisfied with the high quality the teams are bringing to the courts, so the matches provide us with excellent handball and great entertainment.
ehf-euro.com: Being involved in the sport for such a long time and now looking at EHF EURO 2018, how do you see the development of women’s handball?
Hausleitner: A couple of years ago, you saw maybe one or two teams playing the incredibly high pace which has become the standard for many teams nowadays. Here in France we have eight to 10 teams competing on a very similar level in this respect, so the Scandinavian teams have been confronted with their own weapons. Many nations are now playing at this pace. The game has become incredibly fast. Almost all teams use the seventh player as a tactical measure. The goalkeepers get more and more actively involved in setting up attacks. They all try to put pressure on their opponents by going this high tempo. It gives this event an even higher overall quality of play. It’s truly one of the best Women’s EHF EUROs. There have been no boring games, even when one team was clearly winning, you still saw the opponents keep on fighting. It is the first time we have witnessed it to this amount. All participating teams have showed that they fully deserved to be here.
ehf-euro.com: In what way do these positive aspects help the EHF to spread the word of women’s handball and attract even more fans to the sport?
Hausleitner: We have made important steps in the marketing of women’s handball, because the product has developed so well. It’s a trustworthy product with a high entertainment value. And when the artists on the court are delivering such great performances as we see here, that helps a lot for the sport to attract even more attention from a wider audience.
ehf-euro.com: Can you give us a quick behind-the-scenes look? How do you rate the organisational aspects of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018?
Hausleitner: We are more than satisfied. Everything has been done to offer the players and the teams perfect conditions. An athlete is never completely satisfied but conditions and standards have been really of the highest level. It all runs very smoothly. And the way this event has been welcomed by the various host cities is impressive. Also a big word of thank to all those may, many volunteers, who have been very helpful and very friendly throughout.
ehf-euro.com: What learnings can the EHF take away from this tournament?
Hausleitner: The tournament has been a very positive experience, but of course we want to develop further and we will question ourselves in all what we are doing. Because we want to draw the right conclusions in order to take the right next steps. We have to think in long-term strategies: we will not re-invent the world in 2020 but we are very aware that the 2022 and 2024 events will bring us whole new challenges, which we have to be prepared for. We want to open up new markets, we want to further professionalise when it comes to providing various targets groups with the right content. And we want get onto even more TV markets.
ehf-euro.com: In preparing these next steps for handball, what can the EHF learn from other sports?
Hausleitner: We steal ideas each day with proud [laughs]. No, seriously, of course we watch what is going on elsewhere. We are part of an entertainment business with a corresponding competitive environment. We watch closely what other sport events are doing, but not just sport events. People come to experience sport as entertainment, so every organiser of an entertainment event is our competitor and we can learn from them what works, what attracts people, which formats are successful, so we can integrate successful factors into our own events.
ehf-euro.com: What has been your personal highlight of the tournament so far?
Hausleitner: The match France against Montenegro in Nancy: when it comes to atmosphere in an arena, it was truly amazing. Personally I have never witnessed this kind of atmosphere during a Women’s EHF EURO match before. It was really touching, really special to experience that.