The IHF Referees Commission chair has resigned from his position ©Getty Images

International Handball Federation (IHF) Playing Rules and Referees Commission (PRC) chairman Ramón Gallego has announced his resignation citing interference by the IHF President in nominations for matches.

Gallego announced his resignation on Twitter with the official saying he had "serious disagreements" with IHF President Hassan Moustafa.

Gallego said he believed the quality of the officials, rather than gender or nationality, was important when selecting who oversees matches.

"I announce that I'll not fulfil my 8th Olympic Games because I have submitted my resignation to all my current position and responsibilities in the IHF as Chairman of the Playing Rules and Referees Commission with immediate effect, including stopping any work related with the more than 25 projects in which I am currently involved, including analysing matches officiated by IHF referees in their continents and nations (about 500 per year)," Gallego said.

"The reasons are my serious disagreements with the President of the IHF due to his interference in the nominations of the referees, which is even more important when we are close to the Tokyo Olympics.

"I think that the best referees must be nominated for the highest events, regardless of gender or nationality, no matter how many couples from a country, only the quality should be important.

"The IHF referees are honest and professional (sadly not in an economic sense) and I cannot tolerate any political pressure that could threaten their independence.

"Precisely the honesty and independence of the referees and judges of any sport is the best sign of the honesty of that Federation.

"After 36 years at the IHF it is not the dreamed farewell, but more important is to continue sleeping every night with a clear conscience."

The IHF has issued a statement in response to Gallego’s resignation.

The governing body claimed his resignation followed an Executive Committee decision to exclude Gallego as an official at Tokyo 2020.

The IHF cited the organisation’s statutes, saying that the Executive Committee has the right to request changes to the nominations made by the PRC chair, who is then free to appoint the referee couples for the respective matches.

The IHF claim Moustafa had "informed and advised" Gallego on "several occasions not to engage referee couples from the same regions to officiate matches of the teams concerned."

It is claimed this was to guarantee neutrality and also avoid any possible criticism, complaints or arguments for the referees and the IHF.

The IHF cited public and media criticism of the nomination for a Norwegian referee couple for a match between Sweden and Egypt at the Men’s World Championships in January, as well as a Danish referee for a match between Norway and Romania at the Women’s Olympic qualification tournament in Montenegro in March.

The governing body said a complaint was made by the Romanian Handball Federation President.

The appointment of Uruguayan officials for a match between Argentina and Spain at a Tokyo 2020 qualifier, as well as the appointment of two Spanish referees to officiate the final match at the Men’s World Championship rather than nominating one official from each National Federation to ensure diversity.

The organisation also cited an alleged disagreement between Gallego and PRC member Dragan Nachevski over nominations for Tokyo 2020.

The IHF statement declared Gallego’s public comments as "not acceptable."

The IHF was critical of the appointment of two Spanish officials for the men's World Championship final ©Getty Images
The IHF was critical of the appointment of two Spanish officials for the men's World Championship final ©Getty Images

"In March 2021, the IHF approached the PRC chairman asking for his explanation about the aforementioned incidents," an IHF statement read.

"However, his input did not justify his above-mentioned decisions in terms of referee nominations.

"Additionally, the PRC chairman created a constant conflict with the European Handball Federation (EHF), which forced both IHF and EHF to convene mutual meetings to resolve the issues through mediation by their Presidents.

"Due to the PRC Chairman’s differences with IHF PRC member Dragan Nachevski, the PRC chairman did not consider top-level IHF referee Gjorgji Nachevski (Dragan Nachevski’s son) in his initial referee nominations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

"Afterwards, the PRC chairman apologised for his inappropriate behaviour and nominated Gjorgji Nachevski for the mentioned event.

"On 20 April 2021, the IHF Executive Committee organised a video call to discuss the above-mentioned incidents occurred at recent IHF events in terms of referee nominations as decided by the PRC chairman.

"The Executive Committee considered the importance of avoiding any criticism, complaints or arguments as to referee nominations in order to protect the image of the IHF, and unanimously decided not to include PRC chairman Ramón Gallego in the list of IHF nominees for the Olympic Handball Tournaments at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

"The Executive Committee decision did not concern any other responsibility in connection with Ramón Gallego’s position as IHF PRC chairman.

"However, by official letter dated 25 May 2021, Ramón Gallego resigned from all responsibilities in connection with his position as IHF PRC chairman. Ramón Gallego’s resignation will be submitted to the IHF Council in its next meeting.

"One of the IHF’s duties is to protect the best interests of all IHF stakeholders, taking into consideration the huge investment made by the National Federations in the preparation of their national teams. 

"Therefore, the IHF is always keen to conduct all matches of IHF events at the highest level avoiding any criticism, complaints or arguments whatsoever.

"The content of Ramón Gallego’s letter of resignation, which was disclosed by himself to the public, is not acceptable.

"The IHF President was of the opinion that Ramón Gallego only committed human mistakes, which, however, was not reflected in his resignation campaign.

"The IHF would like to thank all its stakeholders, including the IHF President, who continuously offered their support to Ramón Gallego, even before he was elected PRC chairman.

"At the same time, the IHF thanks all IHF referees for their high-level performances at handball events and hopes to continue the good collaboration based on mutual trust."