Remember that summer when the players of the Norwegian women’s handball team were fined for wearing shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms?
The battle between the team and handball’s governing body has sparked a global conversation about the sexualisation of women in sport.
And now it has also triggered a change.
The International Handball Federation has revised its uniform rules, stating that players must wear “a fitted tank top, tight-fitting cropped trousers and any accessories”. The new regulations were published on October 3 and will come into force on January 1.
Women were previously required to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut at an upward angle towards the top of the leg”, with a side width no greater than 4 inches. (Men’s players’ shorts don’t need to be “slim fit” like women’s do, but they shouldn’t be more than 4 inches above the knee.)
The rule change is an apparent victory for Norway’s women’s beach handball team after months of controversy.
Players told the European Handball Federation in July that they would wear shorts rather than bikini bottoms in a league game against Spain – claiming the bottoms were impractical in a sport that requires of plunging into the sand and calling the demands degrading for women.
Each member of the 10-person team was fined 150 euros, or about $175. American singer P!nk offered to cover the costs at the time, although the federation said it had donated the money to a “major international sports foundation that supports equality for women and girls in sport”.
He added that he would “do everything possible to influence a change in the regulations for beach handball uniforms” but that any formal decision lay with the international governing body, or IHF.
In an open letter, 5 countries urge IHF to review uniform policies
The IHF said in July that it appreciated the comments it had heard following the Norwegian team’s protest, but that it could not change any uniform requirements without going through a thorough approval process. .
He explained that IHF commissions and working groups are traditionally responsible for evaluating beach handball regulations before each IHF congress and that a working group is already studying equipment and uniforms.
“While alternatives to the current uniform have already been studied and worked out by the IHF Beach Handball Task Force, the IHF cannot make a decision without also analyzing the implementation procedure and several steps must be taken to implement new rules,” he said.
In September, the sports ministers of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland wrote an open letter to the IHF, urging it to review its uniform policies “in accordance with equal of the sexes”.
The rule change will be officially presented at the IHF Congress in Turkey next week before taking effect in January.
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Corrected: November 1, 2021 at 9:00 PM PDT
A subtitle of an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that an open letter had been sent by four countries to the IHF last month. The letter was signed by five countries in September.