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A Women's Beach Handball Team Is Fined For Not Wanting To Wear Bikini Bottoms

The Norwegian women's beach handball team is being fined for wearing shorts during a recent tournament game. The team is seen here after a game in 2018.
Ilnar Tukhbatov
Epsilon/Getty Images
The Norwegian women's beach handball team is being fined for wearing shorts during a recent tournament game. The team is seen here after a game in 2018.

Athletes on the Norwegian women's beach handball team are being punished for wearing shorts rather than bikini bottoms during a recent game, with the European Handball Federation leveling fines over "a case of improper clothing."

The federation's disciplinary commission imposed a fine of 150 euros per player (around $175) on the 10-member squad. In a joint statement with the International Handball Federation, the officials said that "all efforts will be taken in order to further promote the sport. This includes the ideal presentation of the sport and, by that, includes the outfit of the players."

Norway's team gave advance warning to officials at the European Beach Handball Championship that the athletes would wear shorts rather than bikini bottoms when they faced Spain in a bronze-medal game Sunday. The Norwegians lost that game — but they also said they were proud to make a statement by playing in shorts instead of bikini bottoms.

"We are overwhelmed by the attention and support from all over the world!" the team said. "We really hope this will result in a change of this nonsense rule!" it added.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Beachhåndballjentene🇳🇴 (@norwaybeachhandballwomen)

Norway is backing its players.

"Of course we would pay any fine," Norwegian Handball Federation President Kare Geir Lio told Agence France-Presse. "We are all in the same boat."

"This is an important battle, and I'm very proud to be a part of this," Norway's Martine Welfler said as she welcomed the support her team has received. "This positive feedback is insane and I can't believe it to be honest."

Why the Norwegian team opposes bikini bottoms

The Norwegian team said the bikini bottoms aren't practical in a sport that constantly sees players diving into the sand. Some have also said the requirements are simply degrading to women.

The International Handball Federation's rules and regulations require men to wear shorts that fall no longer than 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) above their knees. But the rules for women are more specific, and revealing:

"Female athletes must wear bikini bottoms ... with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg," the rules state. "The side width must be of a maximum of 10 centimeters."

Beach handball is a relatively new sport. In the Olympics sphere, it's included only in the Youth Olympic Games. But it has grown in popularity since formal rules for the sport were devised in the 1980s. It shares the same court configuration as beach volleyball — another sport that is under scrutiny for requiring female athletes to wear revealing bikini bottoms while male athletes compete in shorts.

The European and world governing bodies are suggesting that the uproar over the bikini bottoms is due to, essentially, fake news.

"From a European perspective, the reaction is based on disinformation on the procedure," the federations said. "The position of the players involved is acknowledged and further steps ... are in motion."

The federations noted that Norway filed a motion to discuss allowing women to wear shorts in April. Since then, they said, the country's federation has not brought a separate motion forward.

Female athletes' uniforms will be a central topic for the newly established Beach Handball Commission, which will hold its first meeting next month, the European and international federations said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.