Handball bikini rule: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland call for uniform policy review

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By Euronews  with AP
Norway were fined for refusing to wear bikini shorts at a European match in July.
Norway were fined for refusing to wear bikini shorts at a European match in July.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati, FILE

Five European countries have urged the International Handball Federation (IHF) to review their uniform rules for female athletes.

Norway's women were punished in July for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms for a European match against Bulgaria.

The Norwegian team was fined €1,500 for "improper clothing" during their bronze medal match at the European Beach Handball Championship in Bulgaria.

The fine sparked outrage across the Nordic countries, with Norway's culture minister Abid Raja describing the penalty as "completely ridiculous".

Male athletes are permitted by the sport's authority to wear T-shirts and shorts while women have to wear midriff-baring tops and "fitted, low-cut bikini bottoms".

In an open letter to the IHF, the five sports ministers from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland called for policies to be changed "in accordance with gender equality".

"[We] urge the International Handball Federation and other international sports federations to review uniform rules and to allow athletes to be dressed in a way that suits performance and comfort."

"We emphasise the need for action not only to accommodate current female athletes but also to support and encourage all athletes regardless of their gender or background to remain in sport."

Denmark's sports minister Ane Halsboe-Joergensen said on Thursday that the current uniform policies were "obsolete" and "belonged to another country".

"I also have a hard time seeing what sporting reasons should be behind female athletes having to play in a bikini," she added.

American singer Pink supported the Norwegian women's team in their protest against the uniform and had offered to pay their fine.

The musician said on Twitter she was "proud" of the players for protesting against the "very sexist" rules.

Norway had said they were prepared to pay the fine of €150 per player.

"Thank you so much for all the support," the team added in an Instagram post. "We really appreciate all the love we have received."