The Norwegian women’s beach handball team were fined by the European Handball Federation on Monday after players wore shorts, instead of the required bikini bottoms, during a match over the weekend.
The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms “close to the body and cut diagonally up to the top of the leg.” The sides of the bikini bottom should be no longer than four inches. Men, on the other hand, can wear shorts as long as four inches above their knees as long as they aren’t “too loose.”
A spokeswoman for the International Handball Federation, Jessica Rockstroh, said on Tuesday that she did not know the reason for the rules. “We are looking at this internally,” she said.
Ms Rockstroh said the organization is currently focusing on the Olympics, not uniforms, and the organization has not received any official complaints before. She later said that Norway was the only country to have officially complained. “Overall we know other countries like to play in bikinis, for example, especially in South America,” she said.
The Norwegian team had been planning for weeks to break the rules to emphasize the double standard for female athletes. The players wore shorts for Sunday’s bronze medal match against Spain at the European Beach Handball Championships in Varna, Bulgaria.
“I don’t see why we can’t play in shorts,” said Martine Welfler, one of the Norwegian players. “With so much body shame and stuff like that these days, you should be able to wear a bit more of it when you play.”
Each Norwegian player was fined 150 euros (approximately $ 177), for a total fine of € 1,500.
Kare Geir Lio, president of the Norwegian Handball Federation, said the organization would pay the fine. He said Norway had repeatedly complained about the bikini bottom requirement to the International Federation since 2006. “Nothing has happened,” he said.
Female athletes have spoken out against double standards for their uniforms on several occasions over the past decades. Women are required to wear more revealing outfits in several sports, including track and field, beach volleyball and tennis. In 2011, the World Badminton Federation decreed that women must wear skirts or dresses to play at the elite level in order to rekindle interest in women’s badminton.
In some cases, women have been fined because their uniforms were too long. In others, the uniforms were too short.
At the England Track Championships this weekend, Paralympian sprinter and long jumper Olivia Breen said an official told her the running briefs she was wearing were inappropriate.
“I was just chatting with my really happy teammate and this manager came up to me and she said, ‘Can I talk to you Olivia?’” Ms. Breen said in an interview on Tuesday. “She was just like, ‘I think your panties are too revealing and I think you should consider buying a new pair of shorts.'”
Ms Breen said she was taken aback: “My first response was’ are you kidding? And she just said, ‘No, I’m not. And I think you should honestly consider buying a pair of shorts.
The exchange left Ms Breen and her teammate speechless, she added. “It made me so angry,” she said. “We shouldn’t be told what to wear and what we can’t. Why would you want to make a comment like that?
Mr Lio, of the Norwegian Handball Federation, said there was no reason why women should be required to wear bikini bottoms during matches. “Women should have the right to have a uniform that they deem suitable for the practice of their sport,” he said.
In a 2006 letter to the International Handball Federation, the Norwegian Handball Federation said that the requirement for women to wear bikini bottoms is insensitive to the cultural norms of some countries and can be embarrassing for those who do not want to. have their bodies exposed, according to a copy seen by The New York Times. In handball, a sport that combines elements of football and basketball, goalkeepers should be allowed to wear less revealing uniforms as they use all parts of their bodies to block shots, according to the letter.
Thomas Schoeneich, spokesperson for the European Handball Federation, said on Tuesday that the organization was only applying the rules set by the international federation. “Change can only happen at the level of the International Handball Federation,” he said.
The Norwegian Handball Federation suggested changing the uniform requirements for female athletes at a meeting of the European Handball Federation in April. The motion was due to be discussed by the International Handball Federation in November, Schoeneich said.
Ms Welfler, the Norwegian handball player, said there were players in Norway who did not want to compete internationally due to uniform requirements. (In national tournaments, Norwegian players can wear shorts.)
“It’s really sad because maybe the best players won’t participate,” she said. She also said the players were tired of being scrutinized in scantily clad clothes. The focus should be on gambling, she said.
Janice Forsyth, associate professor of sociology at Western University in Canada and former director of the university’s International Center for Olympic Studies, said some uniforms, especially in track and field and swimming, could give athletes an advantage. But in the case of beach handball, wearing shorts instead of bikinis would not allow athletes to jump higher or move faster in the sand.
“I don’t see how this argument has any weight,” she said. “To say that wearing less clothes, as women are required to do, makes them better athletes is just plain silly.”
Amanda morris contributed reports.