In 2004 Tor Lian was elected President of the European Handball Federation. Before, the Norwegian – one of the EHF founders in 1991 – had been Vice-President during the presidency of Staffan Holmqvist. Lian was president of the Norwegian Handball Federation from 1985 to 1999, and the 67-year-old former headhunter for international human resource companies had been board member of the Norwegian Olympic Committee for a long term. He was the chief of the organising committee of the 1993 and 1999 Women’s World Championships in Norway, and has been member of the IHF Council since 2000. In January 2012 Lian announced that he would not run for the EHF presidency at the upcoming Congress in Monaco anymore. During the following interview Tor Lian talks about his year-long work for the EHF before his current Vice-President Jean Brihault being supposed to be elected his successor.
What emotions will you feel when leaving the EHF at the Congress in Monaco?
Tor Lian: As I was one of the founders of the EHF, I will have very special feelings. The progress, expansion and the huge organisational improvements is something I am utmost delighted with. Being part of the EHF has been a great journey for me and I got to know so many friends in the world of handball. So I will certainly continue to be part of the handball family, but not as the President. This fantastic part of the journey is going to end but another one will start. I hope I was able to give something to the people involved from my side, as I received great cooperation from all of them too.
What were your personal highlights as EHF President?
Tor Lian: Everything has improved in recent years, especially when I see a fruitful cooperation with the clubs, the creation of some great and successful events like the VELUX EHF FINAL4 or the EHF EURO events, excellent work in terms of organisation done by the people at the EHF office or members of the bodies I have worked with. And everybody can see how close the European handball families stand together as one: When the Netherlands withdrew from the Women’s EHF EURO 2012, eleven nations wanted to jump in. Everybody – clubs, federations, players – takes great responsibility for the development of our sport and they have confidence in the EHF.
Jean Brihault is the sole candidate for the EHF presidency to succeed you. You have been collaborating for a long time. What do you say about his candidature?
Tor Lian: I still remember when I met him the first time and persuaded him to join the EHF. Although our professional backgrounds - business on the one hand, university on the other hand – are completely different, we nearly always have the same opinion. I say sometimes that Jean and me are like an elderly married couple. We have a great understanding for each other, and I know for sure that he is a competent man and the best choice for this position. I am convinced that he will do a great job as the new EHF President. When I announced that I withdrew from the presidency in Monaco, Jean Brihault announced that he will stand as a candidate, which is absolutely right. And as I will be part of the handball family in the future, I will be of help whenever he is asking for assistance.
You named the progress of events – what is your opinion about the improvement of the EHF EURO events?
Tor Lian: The 2010 Women’s EHF EURO in Norway and Denmark or the 2012 Men’s EHF EURO in Serbia were very successful events in every respect. However, we should not lean back and relax but we have to continue and improve what we are doing. We have to consider the whole thing and not only parts of it. We are responsible for referees, officials, media and of course venues and organisation. The development of the EHF EUROs meant a great step forward in order to make handball more attractive.
When looking back at the time when you became EHF President – how has the general interest for handball in Europe changed in the meantime?
Tor Lian: This development is something amazing too. We know the attraction of this product now, but you have to keep in mind the point where we started. Cooperation with the clubs was one important signal for the development; as the clubs are the basis for all national teams. We cared about the national leagues to reach a general standard of communication and cooperation. The development has been along with a growing attraction and interest in handball.
In the light of cooperation with clubs and leagues the implementation of the Professional Handball Board was a milestone of your presidency…
Tor Lian: This new body gives represents a permanent and well structured platform for a close relationship with all stakeholders. The start of the PHB was excellent, all groups fill this body with life, and every group is now represented in this board, which is another important step for the general development.
In 2005, at the beginning of your presidency, the marketing arm of the EHF, EHF Marketing, was founded. Is this foundation a story of success?
Tor Lian: Of course! It was Peter Vargo, who was the first marketing employee of the EHF working closely with Secretary General Michael Wiederer or people like Markus Glaser in the very beginning. Today we have a highly competent team, which is improving both the challenges in EHF marketing and the major developments like the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
How do you describe your relationship with EHF Secretary General Michael Wiederer and the EHF office in Vienna?
Tor Lian: Michael is the best to lead an organisation like the EHF managing all the administrative tasks. I remember him when he had been the first employee of the EHF sitting in his first office. Now we have a large team of experts at the office, who do an excellent job. So for me, the “EHF 20 Years Gala” in Vienna in November 2011 was a very exciting moment because of all the friends I met there and as I became aware again where the EHF and the office especially had started.
How do you describe the cooperation between IHF and EHF?
Tor Lian: For us the IHF is a very good partner. The leaderships of both federations have meetings at regular intervals, which are really fruitful. Thus there is an excellent cooperation.
What about your personal future – can you live without handball?
Tor Lian: I believe my future will be exciting. If the EHF wants to, I am still available. But I am 67 years old now with a long fantastic career in sports and business. So I will have different tasks to do now: I have six grandchildren and a house in the mountains where I have seldom been in recent years. So I do have things to do, and handball will remain part of my life. I will attend future events. However, I stop interfering. Jean will be the boss as from Monaco.