In Brief

Handball: swapping bikini bottoms for tight pants

Women competitors will be required to ‘wear short tight pants with a close fit’

“Improper clothing”, the European Handball Federation (EHF) had called it back in July, when Norway’s women’s beach handball team appeared at the European Beach Handball Championship in cycling shorts. Their male counterparts had competed in the same attire, said Fiona Tomas in The Daily Telegraph; but women have traditionally been required to wear bikini bottoms, so the EHF saw fit to fine the team €1,500 (£1,295).

It was an unpopular move. Women athletes in many sports are no longer prepared to accept what they see as sexist regulations governing “appropriate” attire for sporting competitions: artistic gymnastics, to take a notable example, has been embroiled in a long-standing row over mandatory leotards. 

So the EHF should perhaps have foreseen that its decision to fine Norway’s team would provoke a worldwide backlash, said Emma Kemp in The Guardian. This “sexualisation of women athletes must stop”, declared Billie Jean King, while the US pop star Pink offered to pay the team’s fines, and sports ministers from several nations publicly demanded that the regulations be changed. 

Bowing to pressure, the International Handball Federation has now amended them: henceforth instead of bikini bottoms, women competitors will be required to “wear short tight pants with a close fit”. Even though men can wear longer shorts which don’t have to be tight, this is being hailed as a victory of sorts.

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