Guest blog written by Malene Hejlskov Mortensen, BA in Sport Management, University College of Northern Denmark & MA in Sport Management, London Metropolitan University, passionate about sports and the business of sports – (Kenneth Cortsen, ed.).
Lost the Gold but Won the Hearts of the Danes
EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark
“It has been a great and unique experience for all of us. EHF EURO 2014 was a window to the world and
we could show Danish passion for handball” – Morten Stig Christensen (DHF)
A week ago the greatest indoor sport event in Denmark ended with the Danish men’s national team in handball losing the final against a world-class French team. Despite the defeat in the final, the tournament has been a great success measured on many parameters; records have been broken and a nation has been gathered in front of the television. It was a showcase for the sport of handball in terms of the ‘heart of handball’.
At the closing press conference of the 11th EHF European Championship in the 11th Country the EHF President, Jean Brihault, called the EHF EURO 2014 a success and he was also happy to witness a record-breaking event:
“We have seen two weeks of superb handball in an exceptional atmosphere and everybody following this event could receive an illustration of the enthusiasm this event has triggered in Denmark.” – (ehf-euro)
One of the most spectacular things from this event was the unique atmosphere, not only in Jyske Bank Boxen which hosted 14,000 spectators per match, but in all venues; Herning, Aalborg, Copenhagen and Aarhus. Big groups of fans travelled from around Europe to support their home country. Experts agree that the atmosphere has never been as electrifying as we saw in Jyske Bank Boxen for an indoor sports event in Denmark. General Secretary of the Danish Handball Federation (DHF), Morten Stig Christensen, said that the supporters in Herning were fantastic and will be remembered for the way they sang the national Anthem. Also President Jean Brihault compared Jyske Bank Boxen to the London Olympics handball venue ‘The Copper Box’, which was referred to as ‘The Box that Rocks’, and he called the atmosphere in Herning incredible.
As with many other events, the Danish Handball Federation stated that the EHF EURO 2014 couldn’t be as successful without the 1,200 volunteers, who worked hard in all four arenas. The aim of DHF was to learn and copy the London 2012 Olympics volunteer success, with which DHF President, Per Bertelsen, said they succeeded. President, Jean Brihault, reflected on the host and the volunteers:
“They have been great hosts. The organisation has been really precise and at the same time friendly. The volunteers are all very helpful and very enthusiastic. They are not just fulfilling a duty, they are enjoying themselves, and this makes the difference.” – (ehf-euro)
JJ Rowland, Head of EHF Media and Communications, announced that it has been the best covered EHF EURO in history. 75 TV networks were broadcasting the event to 175 countries. EHF media and communications delivered a successful integrated media and communications strategy; the official event App was downloaded more than 35,000 times, hundreds of thousands were watching the official YouTube channel, followed the official website, and the social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the Google+ expert Hangouts.
Already before the final two matches, a new attendance record with 316,500 spectators was set. The EHF President, Jean Brihault, said there must be found a way to build on the success as more tickets could have been sold. Also EHF Secretary General, Michael Wiederer, said handball has proven that it is ready for more, and added:
“Also TV figures proved handball is a good product, if we just mention that coverage in Denmark reached 70 per cent market share, or that in Poland the matches of their national team were followed by seven million people. We are on a good way.” – (ehf-euro)
The popularity of handball was also seen in France, where more than six million viewers followed the EHF EURO final on France Télévisions and Canal Plus. The French handball passion is comparable to French Basketball which last year set a new viewing record; the French EuroBasket victory was watched by an average of 5.5m people (Sportcal). Morten Stig Christensen commented on the success and told how the handball fans created the biggest handball party:
“It has been a great and unique experience for all of us. EHF EURO 2014 was a window to the world and we could show Danish passion for handball.” – (ehf-euro)
The EHF EURO 2014 created a great interest on the tribunes as well as in front of the TV, both beat the previous records. TV 2, which was the host broadcaster and transmitted to the whole world, and TV 2 sports chief Frederik Lauesen were extremely happy about the success and look back on the tournament with pride:
“The big sports events are broadcasted on TV 2 because we can gather the Danes around a shared experience. The Euros in Denmark will for many years stand out as a great symbol on what the organisers and TV stations can deliver when they are best and when a big task must be solved.” – (TV 2)
The preliminary round viewing numbers from the Euros in 2008 and 2012 when Denmark won the gold, or when they got silver at the world Championship in 2011 and 2013 can’t beat this year’s numbers; the first two matches were watched by 1,529,000 and 1,625,000 Danes, which is never seen before in a preliminary round of a Euro or world Championship in handball (ehf-euro). This shows the passion for handball in a little country like Denmark.
Photo: The Danish national team created massive emotional equity among the Danish population (source: EHF – Uros Hocevar)
EHF EURO 2014 – Facts and figures from Sport Event Denmark:
- Spectators: The ticket sale reached 140,000. Besides that the EHF has announced a spectator record with 316,000 when you sum the total of 47 matches in the tournament.
- TV-viewers on TV 2: Peak on 2.5m viewers near the end of the semi-final between Denmark and Croatia. Both the Semi-final and the final were watched by more than 2.2m in average. It is equivalent to each Dane has watched Euro handball on TV 2 in more than eight hours during the two weeks, which is record for a European Championship. (TV 2)
- TV-viewers on TV3 Sport 1: Average 141,000 viewers. TV3 sport 1 broadcasted 23 live matches and 13 rebroadcasts up to and including the main round – all without Denmark on court.
- Number of participating nations: 16
- Number of media accreditations: 711
- Number of visits in the Totalkredit Fan Zone in Herning: 68,000
- Number of Facebook-likes for haandboldherrerne: 220,000
The early 2014 success in Denmark has benefitted from the great handball year 2013, where 20 out of the 25 most watched sports events were handball matches according to Gallup. The last five spots on the hit list are men’s football, highest ranked 11th. The Danes love to watch sport when the national teams have success, which is the case for Danish handball, men and women. It is important to mention that the statistics bear the imprint of a year without a football championship. However, in 2012 when Denmark played in the European Football Championship, handball matches were still the most watched sports programmes according to TV 2. As a brand, football is still seen as the most prestigious sponsorship in Denmark because it is the national sport, and regardless success they will always be found on the hit lists.
The success of handball comes down to many aspects and Ulrik Wilbek has been a main figure in Handball in Denmark for many years. The Danish sports stars celebrate Ulrik Wilbek for his inspiration to a lot of people in his work on and off court. Michael Laudrup and Morten Olsen both agree that Ulrik Wilbek is a great coach, inspirator and ambassador for the sport of handball. Morten Olsen, the Danish National Football coach, says:
“I have the greatest respect for what Ulrik Wilbek has done for his sport. I’m happy for him on how popular handball has become, thanks to him. I think especially that it’s brave that he sometimes prior to a championship with great confidence honestly says that Denmark is favourites. That braveness I admire.” – (BT)
As for now, it is up to DHF and the clubs in Denmark to build on the success and ensure a legacy or in other words build for the future of handball. The DHF President assures that the revenue from the EHF EURO 2014 will be spent on improving the conditions for handball in the clubs around Denmark and on converting the strong focus on handball from this championship into attracting more participants and keep the ones that are already there. With Ulrik Wilbek as DHF Sports Director, handball in Denmark is taking a good step in the preparation process for the next big events; Denmark is host for the women’s world Championship in 2015 and the men’s world Championship in 2019 (co-host Germany).
- Know-how! EHF Media and Communications Knowledge and Networking Forum – Check more information and videos here and here.
- EHF (2014) Record breaking EHF EURO 2014 comes to a close. [ONLINE] Available at: http://den2014.ehf-euro.com/news/single-news/news/record-breaking-ehf-euro-2014-comes-to-a-close/?tx_news_pi1%5Bcontroller%5D=News&tx_news_pi1%5Baction%5D=detail&cHash=5f61cbf68316f5f0083b7d593d3c3929
- TV 2 (2014) Håndbold er en seermagnet på tv. [ONLINE] Available at: http://omtv2.tv2.dk/index.php?id=7279
- BT (2014) Danske sportstjerner hylder Ulrik Wilbek. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bt.dk/haandbold/danske-sportstjerner-hylder-ulrik-wilbek
Info: The men’s EHF EURO 2014 was held by the Danish Handball Federation from the 12th to 26th January 2014 for the European Handball Federation. Sport Event Denmark was partner on the event, which was played in Aalborg, Brøndby, Aarhus and Herning.