Women’s sports associations across Europe have called for the resignation of the presidents of both the international and European handball federations, accusing them of “blatant sexism” for rules that require female players to wear bikini bottoms.
The Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined €1,500 (£1,270) for wearing shorts in protest against the rule during a European Beach Handball Championships match against Spain in Varna, Bulgaria, on 19 July.
The European Handball Federation (EHF) said the Norwegian team were disciplined because of “improper clothing”. In a subsequent statement, the EHF said that, alongside the International Handball Federation (IHF), it was “committed to popularising beach handball” and that the matter of players’ uniforms would be discussed during a meeting of the newly elected commission in August.
The fine, which equated to €150 for each player, was paid for by the Norwegian Handball Federation, which had previously made an official complaint against the bikini bottoms rule.
According to the IHF rule, female players playing beach handball must wear “tops and bikini bottoms and eventual accessories”, while male players wear “tank tops and shorts and eventual accessories”.
“This is a blatantly sexist custom that needs to be eliminated,” said Luisa Rizzitelli, the president of Assist, an Italian association that promotes and defends the rights of female athletes.
Assist is one of seven associations, including the Alice Milliat Foundation in France and Discover Football in Germany, that have written to the IHF president, Hassan Moustafa, and his EHF counterpart, Michael Wiederer, calling on them to resign.
In the letter, they wrote that both federations “have established an embarrassing point of no return regarding their image as international sports institutions”.
Rizzitelli said the IHF’s clothing requirements “shouldn’t mean exploiting the body of a woman”, adding: “Not only did they not immediately drop the rule [after the incident with Norway], but they confirmed the fine – that’s the shameful thing.”
When contacted for comment, the IHF referred the Guardian to an earlier statement and added that a proposal for new uniforms could be presented to the body’s council in November.