The dozen participating teams of 2020/21 Baltic Handball League have already been introduced, but there is one more and as important. The referees are not very often loved, but the game cannot be played without them. Having made substantial changes to the league system, the BHL has also reorganised the refereeing department.
Taking over the organisation of the BHL, Baltic Handball Association (BHA) has appointed the Head of Referees, who will be in charge of all referees and delegates appointments, as well as their development and education. To this position the BHA confirmed Latvian world-class referee Zigmars Sondors.
“When BHA invited me to be involved, it sounded interesting. I have been a referee for more than twenty years, I know all the teams, the structure, the referees and it would be a great challenge to bring on board my ideas to help the development of handball in our region and the BHL in particular,” commented Sondors.
“We will try and improve the quality of the competition. It is not just refereeing, but all parties have to work together. We do not have to make major changes, just refine details in order to bring BHL closer to European competitions, both in terms of match organisation and playing level,” explained Sondors.
It is often said referees are as good as the sports in any particular country. Some players, like Jonas Truchanovičius from Lithuania or Dainis Krištopans from Latvia have in recent years won the EHF Champions League and Latvian national team qualified for EURO 2020, but referees from the Batltics are also on top of the game.
Latvian pair Zigmars Sondors-Renars Licis and Lithuanian referees Mindaugas Gatelis-Vaidas Mažeika have been constantly involved in EUROs, World Championships or Olympics for more than a decade. On club level, most recently Sondors and Licis refereed the 2019 EHF Champions League semi-final and officiated at EURO 2020, while Gatelis and Mažeika were in charge of the 2017 EHF Cup final.
To prove that referees do not come out of nowhere and are former champions themselves, Licis is a good example, having won the BHL in 2002/03 with ASK/LB.LV Riga. “With recent changes, handball has become much faster and all referees have to be in excellent physical shape,” confirms Sondors.
“The speed of the game is influencing all aspects. Handball has become more attractive, but also demands more physically as well as mentally from the players and referees. If you have just two tenths of second to make a decision instead of two seconds, everything changes,” explained Sondors.
Referees for the 2020/21 BHL season:
Estonia: Marion Kull–Alvar Tint, Edvin Härgin–Erik Makejev
Latvia: Edmunds Bogdanovs–Ivars Černavskis, Vadims Jaskins–Eduards Žabko, Martinš Leitis–Ralfs Persis, Mareks Šakola–Aleksander Radčenko, Renars Licis–Zigmars Sondors
Lithuania: Vaidas Mažeika–Mindaugas Gatelis, Gytis Sniurevičius–Andrius Grigalionis, Tomas Barysas–Povilas Petrušis, Justas Ivanauskas–Edvinas Jencevičius, Viktorija Kijauskaite–Ausra Zaliene
On photo: Referees, delegates and table officials are as important part of the game as the teams and players. (Photo: Helin Potter).