IF Prime Minister David Cameron was struggling to work out the rules of handball during a visit to the Olympics last week he picked the right man to ask in University of Bedfordshire Professor John Brewer.
The University’s Director of Sport is also chairman of the British Handball Association and he admitted it was a surreal moment when Mr Cameron invited him to sit down on a sofa at the Copper Box where the handball is being staged for a “chat”.
Professor Brewer said: “He had some time to kill after Team GB’s game because the French President Francois Hollande was running late, so he said let’s sit down and have a chat.”
“It was surreal talking to the Prime Minister, but he was very friendly, very open.
“We talked about the success of the Olympics, how well handball had been received and the good work of all the volunteers, of which many at the handball are from the University of Bedfordshire. He was really impressed with handball. Although the results have not gone Great Britain’s way so far, the crowds have been fantastic. The Copper Box has been full with 7,000 people every day and the atmosphere has been amazing, even for something like Croatia v Serbia. When Team GB play it is absolutely rocking.”
Mr Cameron took the tube to the Games to test out the transport and after giving that the thumbs up he checked out the handball after visiting the Aquatic Centre to watch Tom Daly and Peter Waterfield in the diving.
Handball has been the surprise hit at the Olympics, with the sport earning rave reviews. Professor Brewer is hoping the Olympics will help handball, which is the third biggest sport on mainland Europe, to take off in Britain. He has set Team GB the target of having one of the teams in the quarter-finals and is hoping to see universities as the basis for an upsurge in the sport after London 2012.
“I talked to the Prime Minister about how schools and universities, like Bedfordshire, could help boost handball and how we want to grow the sport in the country,” said Professor Brewer. “He was very interested and I think he was really enjoying the Olympics.
“It has been great for handball in this country so far. Our funding is tiny compared to a lot of sports and some of those have not won any medals yet. We are not expected to win a medal but we are hoping it will establish the sport in this country. The number of hits on our websites has gone through the roof and we have been inundated with enquiries.
“If we could get a team into the quarter-finals that would be tremendous for the sport in this country. I met Sir Clive Woodward as well and after seeing a game he tweeted that ‘all team sports should play handball as their second sport’. The response has been fantastic.”