The athletes on Norway’s women’s beach handball team will be allowed to choose the length of their uniform bottoms following a change in rules from the International Handball Federation. The change comes about three months after a decision to fine Norway's team for wearing shorts instead of the regulation bikinis led to widespread outrage.
NBC News reported this week that beginning January 2022, female players will only be required to compete in "short tight pants with a close fit," and a "body fit tank top.” The rules were updated Oct. 3 but have only now garnered widespread attention.
Female players could previously be fined or disqualified unless they wore midriff-baring tops and bikini bottoms "with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg." Male players were allowed to play in tank tops and shorts no longer than 4 inches above the knee.
Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio said the change is "both a real and symbolic step" toward combating gender inequality in the sport.
"I think it’s good for the game, but first of all, it’s good for the women, and it’s good for how we treat each other in sports," he told NBC News by phone from Bodø, Norway, on Monday.
The new rule means women’s shorts are still required to be fitted, whereas men have no such rule. Lio said that the female players had told him they played better in the tight shorts, and were “very satisfied” with their new ability to choose the length.
The Norwegian women’s team had received support from all over the world after its players wore their preferred thigh-length elastic shorts during a match July 25 to protest against the regulation bikini-bottom design that they said made them “very uncomfortable.” The team was fined 1,500 euros (about $1,700, NBC News reported).
The Norwegian Handball Federation has pushed for a change to the uniform rules since 2006, but the women’s protest in July was a turning point, Lio told NBC News.
The team paid the fine and the federation donated the money "to a major international sports foundation which supports equality for women and girls in sports," it later said, according to NBC News.
Sports ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark called on the federation to take action on the issue in an open letter in September. By the beginning of October, the council had agreed to the changes.