As the whole world is going through radical changes, Baltic Handball League (BHL) decided to reform its structure and system. Under the control of Baltic Handball Association (BHA), founded last year, the 2020/21 BHL will consist clubs only from Baltic countries and will be played in a league format with quarter-finals and Final Four concluding the season.
Four teams each from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will play a 22-game regular season from September to March. Matches will be held on weekends and adjusted into the domestic and international calendar. The play-offs will follow with quarter-finals and then Final Four in April.
“Already couple of years ago at the club forum a change was discussed. Now we created the BHA and national federations will be more involved. This gives us better organisational and legal background. Through BHA we can also get recognition from EHF and become a real regional league,” commented Marius Devyžis, member of the BHL Advisory Board.
“On sporting side, with the exclusion of Finnish, Belarussian and Ukrainian teams the level may drop at first, but in long term I hope this will develop handball in the region to new heights. We need to give the new format some time,” added Devyžis, Chairman of the Board at Lithuanian cup-winner VHC Šviesa Vilnius.
The participants for the 2020/21 season were confirmed this week: ZRHK Tenax Dobele, Celtnieks Riga, SK Latgols Ludza and HK Ogre from Latvia, HC Dragunas Klaipeda, VHC Šviesa Vilnius, Granitas-Karys Kaunas and Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus from Lithuania and Serviti Põlva, HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper, Viljandi HC and SK Tapa from Estonia form the 12-team league.
“From Latvian perspective I believe this will be a very good league. For the development of teams the games against other top sides in our region is hugely important. I am quite sure, there will be no one-sided matches with one team winning by 20 goals, as is the case in some domestic games,” commented another member of BHL Advisory Board, Arvis Juzups.
“Obviously we need to monitor very closely the situation with COVID-19 virus. We all need to be safe and stay vigilant, but my hope is that the situation will not get worse and we can start and play the season normally,” said Juzups, who in the board represents Latvian champion ZRHK Tenax Dobele.
BHA’s decision means there will be no place in the first season of the new-look competition for former winners Cocks Riihimäki and SKA Minsk. “Surely the level at the very top will drop a little bit, but at the same time it will be a very interesting league,” assured Kalmer Musting, the head coach of another former BHL winner Serviti Põlva.
“You can name a group of favourites, but no one can predict the winners or finalists, as was the case in several previous seasons. Regulations of the new BHL also say that top 8 will secure a place for next season, so it will make all games very important, including with mid-or low-table teams,” added Musting, who is also a member of BHL Advisory Board.