At Poland 2016 a new Men‘s EHF EURO spectator record was already set ahead of the semi-finals as more than 340,000 people had seen the matches up to then.
And with this number expected to rise to approximately 400,000 fans after the final, there is plenty to smile about for Marcin Herra.
The vice president of the Polish Handball Federation ZPRP was the chairman of the organising committee and after four hard years of preparation his tournament resume sounds very positive.
“We are more than satisfied. The atmosphere in the arenas and in the hosting cities was brilliant. It was not only the Polish people who were bitten by the handball bug, but together with thousands of fans from abroad a colourful, friendly and positive atmosphere was created. This rewarded all our hard preparations,” says Marcin Herra.
Right after Poland was awarded the right to host the EHF EURO 2016 at the EHF Congress 2012 in Monaco, the Polish Federation started to work on the tournament – in the same year when Poland and Ukraine hosted the European Championship in football.
“It was our dream to have a similar festive atmosphere on the streets of Poland, as we had during the football event – even though we knew that our event will be in winter. But all our hopes have been fulfilled, the concept of having dedicated fan zones in all cities was a huge success.”
For two years the Polish federation went all out and promoted the event Europe-wide.
“It was one of our major tasks to focus not only on the Polish matches in Krakow, but to have full arenas in all venues, and whe I look at the spectator numbers in Gdansk, Katowice and Wroclaw we are more than happy.
“For example, we had thousands of fans from Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany in the venues, so our idea truly worked.”
Herra also points out that the cooperation with the four hosting cities and Malopolska as the hosting region was a key for success.
Another one was Poland's experience of hosting major sport events like the European Championship in football or the World Championship in volleyball - and the cooperation with the EHF worked like a well-oiled machine.
“It is like a car. You build the engine and the chassis, but to have a perfect car you need to have a perfect tuning and set-up, this was done by the expertise of the EHF,” he says.
To analyse the success of the event, ZPRP had launched an online survey for all event stakeholders, including fans, teams, VIP and media.
The questions touched different parts of the organisation and marks could be given from 1 (very bad) to 7 (very good).
According to Herra the average mark across all groups and questions is above six. “This positive feedback proves that we did a right thing in all departments,” Herra says.
And this holds true for Herra despite the fact that Poland missed the semi-final and eventually finished 7th.
“From the sportive point of view this EURO was full of surprises, unfortunately also for our team. But even though Poland were not part of the final weekend, the spectator numbers in Krakow were brilliant on Friday and they will be even higher on Sunday.”
Herra and the ZPRP hope that the EHF EURO will boost handball in Poland, in terms of kids playing the sport, as well as in terms of fan and TV interest.
In 2012 4,000 children played handball at a nationwide tournament, in 2015 this number had risen to 18,000 and for 2016 the hope is there to break the 20,000- mark.
“After this tournament we hope to have a much higher interest in handball than we had before,” says Herra.