Two members of the Norwegian women’s beach handball team — which was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms — said in a TV interview Wednesday that there’s “no good reason” to wear the skimpy attire during competition, according to a report.
The sport’s governing European Handball Federation has confirmed a $1,770 fine — $177 per player — for “improper clothing” in the bronze medal game Sunday against Spain during the European Beach Handball Championships in Bulgaria.
Tonje Lerstad and Julie Berg, two of the players, addressed the controversy in an interview on ITV’s “Lorraine,” telling guest host Ranvir Singh that their country’s federation has received an outpouring of support, the Daily Mail reported.
“Every other federation as well, except the ones making the rules, have supported us. We’re so thankful for the support,” Lerstad said.
The athletes said they had been given “no good reason” for why they had to wear bikini bottoms during play.
“We’ve just been told that this is the rule,” Lerstad said. “We want to grow this sport so everyone can feel they want to participate. Because of body insecurities, a lot of women just say, ‘No, I don’t want to do this,’ and that’s really sad.”
When Singh called the rules “sexist,” both women nodded in agreement, according to the news outlet.
Berg said the men’s team also expressed its support for changing the rules.
“People have been quite shocked that women today in 2021 can’t choose what they want to wear. It’s been overwhelming actually,” she said.
Lerstad added: “If the guys can do it in a T-shirt and shorts, we should be able to do it in the exact same outfit.”
After the fine was imposed, Norwegian Minister for Culture and Sports Abid Raja said in a tweet that it was “completely ridiculous.”
“What a change of attitude is needed in the macho and conservative international world of sport,” Raja said, according to the Daily Mail.
Norwegian Volleyball Federation president Eirik Sordahl said: “In 2021, it shouldn’t even be an issue.”
In a statement, Norway’s Handball Federation said: “We are very proud of these girls who are at the European Championships in beach handball. They raised their voice and told us that enough is enough.
“We are the Norwegian Handball Federation and we stand behind you and support you. We will continue to fight to change the international regulations for attire, so that players can play in the clothing they are comfortable with,” it added.
The bikini issue has been debated in beach sports circles for years as some players find wearing them degrading or simply impractical.
The International Volleyball Federation updated its own rules in 2012, and athletes competing in the sport at this month’s Olympics in Tokyo can choose to play in bikinis or one-piece bathing suits or shorts and T-shirts.
Norway’s Handball Federation has been campaigning to change the IHF uniform rules since at least 2006, according to reports.
“The most important thing is to have equipment that athletes are comfortable with,” Norwegian Handball Federation president Kare Geir Lio told Agence France-Presse on Monday.
A Norwegian motion to amend the rules will be discussed in the coming months.
EHF spokesman Andrew Barringer said the governing body “is committed to bring this topic forward in the interest of its member federations, however it must also be said that a change of the rules can only happen at IHF level.”
Meanwhile, in a reverse of the situation, German beach volleyball players Karla Borger and Julia Sude said they would boycott a tournament in Qatar earlier this year, saying it is the only country where players are banned from wearing bikinis.
“We are there to do our job, but we are being prevented from wearing our work clothes,” Borger told a radio station, the Daily Mail reported.
The Qatar Volleyball Association eventually said there would be “no restrictions” on athletes playing in bikinis.