The International Handball Federation has updated its rules so that women no longer have to play in a bikini, responding to months of pressure from players and coaches who described uniform requirements as sexist.
According to the new rules, which were published on October 3 and will go into effect on January 1, “Athletes must wear shorts and tight pants.” Previous rules for beach handball required women to wear bikini bottoms “fitted and cut at an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” The sides of the bikini bottom cannot be more than four inches.
The IHF, the sport’s governing body, did not provide a reason for the change.
In July, the Norwegian women’s handball team was fined 1,500 euros (about $ 1,740) for competing in a championship game in shorts instead of bikini bottoms, a penalty that drew widespread criticism. Even singer Pink chimed in and said she was proud of the team for protesting the rules and offering to pay the fine.
The fine against the Norwegian team was handed down just as the Tokyo Olympics began, adding to a discussion about double standards affecting female athletes at all levels of competition in handball and in all sports, including gymnastics, badminton and tennis. In beach handball, men may wear shorts up to four inches above the knees as long as they are “not too baggy.”
After teams in Europe and American Samoa lobbied the IHF to change its rules, the organization’s president, Hassan Moustafa, said in august that new rules were likely to be established.
Moustafa said in a statement that the federation, based in Basel, Switzerland, had required players to wear bikini bottoms because those were the rules for beach volleyball, which is played on the same surface.
Kare Geir Lio, director of the Norwegian Handball Federation, said on Monday that he was proud of the Norwegian team for initiating the change. The women, he said, chose the right moment to say, “Enough is enough.”