Premier Handball League postponed to next year due to COVID-19 pandemic

Premier Handball League :The inaugural edition of the Premier Handball League (PHL) was on Friday postponed to next year due to concerns over health and safety of players amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league was earlier scheduled to be held at the Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium in Jaipur from December 24 to January 10. The new dates are yet to be announced.

“Players safety is of paramount importance to us,” Handball Federation of India (HFI) Vice President Anandeshwar Pandey said in a media release.

“We wanted to conduct the inaugural season as per announced schedule but the current situation has not been allowing us to get everything in place keeping the safety guidelines intact,” he added.

“Any lapses would put the health of our players and others involved in danger which we would never wish to happen. Hence, we had to take the difficult decision to postpone the league dates to the early part of the next year with hope that the situation will improve by then,” he further added.

Keeping in mind the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the rescheduled event will be played without spectators and foreign players in a secured bio-bubble, with a seven-day mandatory quarantine ahead of the league.

The utmost precautions will be taken while maintaining a secure environment with substitute players, broadcast crews and other support staff in case of any emergency.

The 18-day mega event is expected to involve close to 350 people on a daily basis including players, officials, organisers, owners and local administrative officials whereas the current state protocols only permit a gathering of not more than 100 people for a sports event.

“Our entire team has been working hard to create a secure bubble ahead of the league. But with the involvement of more than 350 individuals, it’s difficult to create the desired environment and execute the safety plans in such a short span of time,” PHL CEO, Mrinalini Sharma said.

“With the league dates being rescheduled, we will have more time to put things in place and create the best and safest environment for our players and other stakeholders involved,” Sharma added.

Six teams — Telangana Tigers, UP Icons, Maharashtra Handball Hustlers, KingHawks Rajasthan, Bengal Blues and Punjab Pitbulls — are slated to take part in the inaugural season of the league with participation of more than 80 athletes with each team consisting 14 players.