Handball federation scraps sexist rule requiring female players to wear bikinis

The International Handball Federation has scrapped its rule requiring female players to wear bikinis following accusations of sexism.

The sport’s global governing body was widely criticised after the Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined €1,500 (£1,300) for wearing shorts during a European championship match in Bulgaria this summer.

The European Handball Federation, which issued the penalty, said it was a case of “improper clothing” that was “not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF beach handball rules of the game”.

In lieu of crop tops and bikini bottoms, the rules now say female athletes must wear “short tight pants with a close fit” and “body fit”, “close-fitting” sleeveless tank tops.

The description of the male uniform is less explicit about the tightness of the clothes, allowing players to wear shorts as long as 10cm above the knee provided they are “not too baggy”.

In September, ministers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden asked the IHF to review the guidance “in accordance with gender equality”.

The rules at the time read: “Athletes’ uniforms and accessories contribute to helping athletes increase their performance as well as remain coherent with the sportive and attractive image of the sport.

“Female athletes must wear bikini bottoms…with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.”

The change follows an outcry on social media and a petition by Norway-based activist Talitha Stone, which was signed by more than 61,000 people.

Pop star Pink even weighed in and offered to pay the penalties amounting to £130 per player, saying she was “proud” of Norway’s team for “protesting the very sexist rules about their uniform”.

Norway’s sports minister Abid Raja called the situation “completely ridiculous” and said attitudes needed to change.

Female athletes have increasingly taken a stand against rules requiring them to wear revealing clothing in sports like track and field, tennis and volleyball.

Team GB pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw told Sky News skimpy outfits are discouraging women from competing, saying she was “sick to her stomach” when she was told she was expected to compete in the Olympics with her stomach and upper thighs on display.

“Young female athletes who said to me ‘I have dropped out of athletics because I saw people wearing crop tops and knickers and I didn’t want to’… that to me is heartbreaking,” the Olympic bronze medallist said.

In July double Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen said she was left “speechless” after she was told that her sprint briefs were “too short and inappropriate”, while in April, Germany’s gymnastics team decided to wear full-length leotards to protest the sexualisation of their sport.

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