Handball Leagues and Competitions: A Guide

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Ireland may not be very big on handball but the game has a strong fan base around the world especially in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Germany. Thousands of passionate handball fans not only play the game but show up to live handball leagues and competitions to support their favourite teams. 

If you are not familiar with the game of handball, this detailed handball guide from Mr Green will help you quickly understand the game and learn about the biggest handball leagues, tournaments and competitions from around the world. Some of these leagues and competitions include the World Handball Championships, Handball Bundesliga in Germany, EHF Cup, EHF Champions League and Handball at the Olympics.

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handball leagues

 

About Handball: Rules, Format and Statistics

If you have no clue on how to play handball, then our short list of the basic rules will give you a breakdown of how handball is played and make it easy for you to understand quickly.

  • Handball is very similar to futsal – has similar size goals and is played indoors
  • There are 7 players in each handball team and this includes the goalkeeper
  • Handball games are split into two 30-minute halves (total 60 minutes)
  • Players are not allowed to hold on to the ball and run more than three steps
  • Players who have contact with the ball are not allowed to touch the surface of the goal area

Handball has been around for a long time but is yet to capture the hearts of a worldwide audience. Handball started out in Denmark back in the 19thcentury and has grown slowly over the years with a reported 27 million players now registered across the world.

We will now take a detailed look into some of the biggest handball leagues and tournaments from around the world. Read on to learn more about handball and gain insight that will help you with your betting.

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handball bundesliga

 

Handball Bundesliga

Handball Bundesliga in Germany is the biggest domestic handball league in the world with each League game during the 2018/19 seasonaveraging around 4,800spectators in attendance. The highest recorded attendance during this season was the game between SG Flensburg-Handewittand Rhein Neckar Löwen which saw a massive 13,200 fans attend.

Currently there are four professional handball league competitions that take place around the world. Apart from Germany’s Handball Bundesliga, you will find the Championnat de France de handball in France, Liga ASOBAL in Spain and the Danish Handball League.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) had Germany in first place according to the European handball rankings from 2010 to 2019 until Spain knocked them off from the top spot. Like in most sports, the men’s handball league has a bigger fan following than the women’s Handball-Bundesliga which is the seventh biggest women’s league in Europe. The K&H Liga in Hungary outranks a number of other leagues including Norway, Russia, Denmark, France and Romania.

 

Handball Bundesliga Season Format

Handball Bundesliga has 18 teams competing every season and the last two teams on the points table get demoted to the Bundesliga second division and the top two teams from the Second division get promoted to the main league. The point system gives the winning team 2 points, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss.

Each season has a total of 34 game days and the league is played in a round-robin structure where each team plays the other team twice. One game is a home game while the other is an away game. Handball Bundesliga is unique since there is no playoffs in the league nor is there a final match between the two top teams.

The top two teams at the season’s end automatically enter the EHF Champions League the next season. Teams three, four and five are entered into the EHF Cup. The qualification criteria in Europe can change if a German team ends up winning a European handball title. The winning team is automatically entered in the competition and do not have to qualify based on their league standing.

 

Handball Bundesliga History

A handball league existed in Germany prior to Handball Bundesliga being established in 1966/67.  When the first season took place the league was divided into regional south and north divisions. Handball Bundesliga decided to merge both regions in 1977 and create one national league comprising of 18 teams. The second division was added in 1981 and the Regionalliga was relegated as the third division.

 

Top Teams in Handball Bundesliga

VfL Gummersbach was the top team in the league having won 12 league titles over the years. However, THW Kiel toppled them in 2007 to become the most successful handball team in Germany. VfL Gummersbach is still one of the most popular teams in the league as they have won a record 5 EHF European Cup titles to THW Kiel’s 3 titles.

However, Gummersbach hasn’t had the success they would have liked in recent times as their last European championships was back in 1983. Magdeburg also has won three titles over the years. However, the last Bundesliga team to win a title was when Flensburg-Handewitt defeated rivals Kiel in the 2013/14 finals after Anders Eggert had a great game.

In the 90s, Kiel dominated the Bundesliga and this was largely mainly due to the brilliance of their top player Nikola Karabatic. During this 10-year period, they won 7 titles and continued to do well as a team in the following years as well as they had a great team with the likes of Daniel Narcisse and Domagoj Duvnjak. They haven’t had a lot of success in the last few years as Rhein-Neckar Löwen won consecutive titles in 2016 and 2017 while SG Flensburg-Handewitt won back to back titles in 2018 and 2019.

Handball-Bundesliga is rather unique because most of the top teams in the league are not from big cities. This is the opposite in football as most of the domestic leagues are dominated by teams from big cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Manchester, London, Munich and Paris. Handball-Bundesliga’s top teams are from small cities – Kiel has just 246,000 residents, Flensburg has 85,000, Gummersbach has 51,000 and Grosswallstadt has only has just over 4,000. So don’t focus on big cities when it comes to your handball betting strategies.

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handball champions league

 

EHF Champions League

The EHF Champions League is the number one handball competition in Europe.

The format for the EHF Champions league is very similar to the UEFA Champions League with the top ranked teams from different European leagues face each other midweek during the regular season.

The VELUX Group has been the official sponsors of the Champions League since 2010/11 and the league has been branded as the VELUX EHF Champions League. During the semi-finals, the competition is promoted as the “VELUX EHF FINAL4”.

 

EHF Champions League Format

The EHF coefficient determines the winner of the top 27 handball leagues in Europe and this team gets automatically included in the group stage of the EHF Champions League next season. The team that finished in second place from the top two European leagues also gets a free pass to the Champions League. Spain and Germany are currently ranked as the top two European leagues. 

For certain seasons, the EHF Champions League will play out a qualification phase which will include deserving teams nominated by their respective handball associations.

There are four groups during the group stage with Group A and B having 8 teams each while Group C and D will have 6 teams each. The top teams from Group A and B enter the quarter-finals automatically while teams finishing in 2ndto 6thplace go into the playoffs. The top two teams from Group C and D will play each other and the two winners will join the remaining 10 teams in the round of 16 (although there are only 12 teams at this stage).

The six winners from the round of 16 are then joined by the winners from Group A and B and the competition becomes a lot easier to follow. The format throughout the competition will see each team play the other team twice – once at home and once in an away game. The only games that are exempt from this format are the final and the game to determine the third-place finisher. The locations for these games are pre-determined.

 

EHF Champions League History

The EHF Champions League has a rich history. The League was established in 1956 and was initially called the European Cup till it was rebranded in 1993. 

 

Most Successful EHF Champions League Teams

Dukla Prague was the first team to win the European Cup back in 1957. The Cup was shared between Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Romania, Russia and Sweden for a number of decades until 1990s.

When Barcelona won the Cup in 1991, it ended one era and launched a new one. The rebranding to the EHF Champions League was completed before the start of the 1993/94 season and Spain dominated the League winning the next 8 seasons. While Barcelona was the most dominant team during this span, some of the other teams that also had a good run during this time included TEKA Santander, Portland San Antonio and Elgorriaga Bidasoa.

Team Barcelona continued to be successful entering the new millennium but they were no longer consistent at winning like before. However, they are still the most successful team in EHF Champions League history winning as many as 9 titles as of 2019.

The second most successful team in the League is VfL Gummersbach who have 5 titles – the last of which was back in 1983. THW Kiel has won three titles to their name winning in 2007, 2010 and 2012 which marked a resurgence in the Bundesliga as Flensburg-Handewitt and HSV Hamburg went on to win titles as well.

RK Vardar from North Macedonia has been one of the standout teams in recent years. RK Vardar won the title in 2017 and 2019 and took fourth place during the 2018 edition. This quick breakdown of the top teams in the EHF Champions League should be of great help when you formulate your handball betting strategies.

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handball leagues

 

EHF Cup

The EHF Champions League is the top handball competition for first division handball clubs in Europe and the EHF Cup is run for second division handball clubs in Europe. The EHF Cup has a format that is similar to the Europa League football tournament.

German handball teams have had a great run at the EHF Cup during the last 10 years. Teams from Handball Bundesliga have won 15 out of the last 16 EHF Cups as of 2019. When you look at the history of the EHF Cup, you will see that Germany in general has indeed clearly dominated the second division handball championship winning a total of 24 Cup’s while the other teams have combined to win just 14 Cups.

 

EHF Cup Format

The EHF Cup format has three stages which are: Qualification, a Group Stage and the Elimination Phase.

During the qualifying stages, a total of 64 teams compete. These teams are shortlisted on the basis of their domestic league rankings from the previous season.  The first qualifying round will see 32 teams compete and the winners are then joined by an additional 16 teams in the second qualifying round. The third qualifying round which is also the final round will see the top 16 ranked teams from round 2 joined by another 16 teams who are ranked higher.

This new set of 16 teams usually come from countries like Spain, Germany, Denmark and France.  All games in the final phase are elimination games based on the usual one home game and one away game format.

The 16 winning teams from the final round will then be broken up into four groups – with each group comprised of 4 teams. They will now play each other in a group stage which has a round-robin format under the usual two game rule. The top team in each group will make it to the quarter finals while the top three second place teams also qualify. 

During the quarter final stage, one of the team’s home arena is selected and will play host to all of the games. The final 4 stage is held during one weekend, with two semi-finals taking place on one day while the next day is scheduled for the finals and the third-place playoff.

The team that wins their group automatically makes it to the semi-finals which is called the Final 4. The second placed team with the lowest points gets eliminated which means only three quarter-finals will be held to determine the remaining Final 4 teams.

There appears to be a distinct advantage when it comes to hosting the Final 4 competition as 3 out of the last 5 hosts have gone on to win the competition as of 2019.

 

EHF Cup History

This competition was established back in 1981 and was known as the IHF Cup till 1993. The competition was based on an elimination format until this was scrapped in 2012 when it was merged with the EHF Cup WinnersCup and took on a group stage format.

 

Most Successful EHF Cup Teams

While German teams have had a lot of success over the years, not one team has managed to win the tournament more than 4 times as of 2019. THW Kiel and Frisch Auf Göppingen are the teams that have been the most successful in recent years. 

The first edition of the tournament was won by VfL Gummersbach who defeated Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, a team from Yugoslaviato win the 1982 championship.

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handball world championships

 

Handball World Championships

The Handball World Championships is the number one international competition for mens and women’s handball and takes place twice a year. Each country (sometimes countries) take turns in hosting the tournament. France has had the most success in the men’s competition having won 6 gold medals.

 

Handball World Championships Format

There are different ways to qualify for the Handball World Championships. The winner of the previous Championship and the host team automatically get a spot.  So does the winner of the EuropeanChampionship and the top teams from the Pan American, Asian and African Championships.  European teams will battle it out during a specified period and two wildcard spots are given out to finalise the 24 teams.

The last few editions of the Championships have seen four groups comprising 6 teams. Each team plays the other team once in the Group stage and the top 3 teams from each group head over to the Main Round to form two Groups comprising of 6 teams each. The two top teams from each Group make it to the semi-finals.

The teams that get eliminated during the Championships will continue to play each other to determine final rankings.

 

Handball World Championships History

Germany played host to the first Handball World Championships in 1938 and went on to win the title. Due to the start of World War II, the Championships were put on hold. The next edition took place 16 years later and Sweden ended up hosting and winning the tournament.

Four years later, the next championship took place. After this, the format frequency was changed to every 3 years and this held till 1970. It was once again changed to the four-year format and ran till 1993 when the frequency was once again changed to every 2 years.

 

Most Successful Teams in Handball World Championships

European teams have dominated the World Championships for decades and only in 2015 did that pattern change when hosts Qatar took 3rdplace and the bronze medal.

Francehas been dominant in recent times winning in 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2017 which makes them the  most successful team in the competition having won 6 titles as of 2019. Denmark, who hosted the championship with Germany in 2019, are the current champions. This was also the first time that the championship was co-hosted and a repeat is on the cards for 2023 when Poland and Sweden will co-host. However before that happens, Egypt will play host in 2021.

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handball olympics

 

Handball Olympics

Handball has featured in the Olympics over the years in different forms. The 1972 Olympics featured men’s indoor handball and the 1976 Olympics featured women’s handball and both events have been regular at the Summer Olympics since then.

 

Handball Olympics Format  

The 2020 Olympics will see 12-team mens and 12-team womens handball event. The format includes a group stage, an elimination phase and then the quarter finals. Host nation Japan and the winners of the Pan American Games, Asia, Africa, European Championships and World Championship automatically qualify along with 6 teams who were finalised via an IHF Qualification Tournament.

 

Most Successful Teams in Handball Olympics

No men’s team has been dominant at the Olympics as there have been 9 different winners so far with Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Croatia and France winning Olympic gold twice. Denmark has dominated women’s team winning the last three Olympics. 

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Liga ASOBAL

This is the top handball league in Spain, is comprised of 16 teams and is played under EHF rules.

 

Liga ASOBAL League Format

A total of 30 games takes place in the league each season as each team plays the other team twice – once at home and the other is an away game. Liga ASOBAL is broken into two halves – separated by a winter break. Each team gets 2 points for a win, 1 point or a draw and 0 for a loss.

There is no final played to determine the winner. The eventual winner is the team that finishes with the highest number of points. If two teams end up with the same points, the winner is determined by their overall results (team with the best results win). If this rule does not determine an eventual winner, then the team with the best goal difference wins.

 

Liga ASOBAL History

The “División de Honor” was established back in 1958 and was run till 1990 by the Spanish Handball Federation (FEBM). ASOBAL which stands for the Handball Clubs Association was created in 1984 and renamed the División de Honor to Liga ASOBAL in 1990 and took over operations.

 

Best Teams in Liga ASOBAL

Barcelona has dominated the competition and has won 9 consecutive titles. The second most popular team in the league is Ciudad Real who won consecutive titles from 2007 to 2010.