Hungary to host the 2016 Men’s European Championships

The European Lacrosse Federation has announced that Hungary have been awarded the rights to stage the 2016 Men’s European Championships.

Hungary was in competitive bidding process with Israel who proposed hosting the event in Ashkelon. The ELF European member nations voted for Hungary by 16 votes to 11. The championships will be hosted in the city of Gödöllő, 40 minuets north east of Budapest at the Szent István University.

The venue boasts four UEFA standard pitches with accommodation on site to create an ‘Olympic Village’ atmosphere. An expected 28 teams are due to compete over a ten-day period, a growth of eight nations since the 2012 championships in Amsterdam.

Hungary have been playing lacrosse since 2008 and not only will this be the first time that Hungary will have hosted a major international lacrosse event but it will also be the first time they will compete in one.

Ron Balls commented, “It is recognised that Hungary is a relatively new lacrosse nation, that this will be the first major international event hosted and will put pressure on their volunteer resources. However it provides the opportunity to raise the profile of our sport and enhance public and media awareness in that country.”

The European Lacrosse Federation also announced that the tournament would take place between July 25 – August 3rd. This will also coincide with the 2016 FIA Hungarian Grand Prix.

David Urban will spearhead the tournament; he is one of the founding members of the Budapest Blax Lacrosse Club and will be the lead organiser for EC2016. We caught up with David to find out what impact the event will have on Hungarian Lacrosse and what we can expect from the event in 2016.

Can you tell us about lacrosse in Hungary?
It all started with an ELF coach who came over for a few days to show us the basics, and we went on our own from there, slowly but surely we have been growing our numbers, our skills and our equipment. The first lacrosse game was held in November of 2008 against the Bratislava Bats team who came over to Budapest for an exhibition game. At first we competed in the Austrian Lacrosse League with no considerable results, but by 2012, we reached 2nd place in the league behind the mighty Vienna Monarchs. Now we compete in the Central European Lacrosse League’s first season.

Other men’s teams have started to form in Pécs, Debrecen and Székesfehérvár. The first Hungarian vs. Hungarian game was played in January of 2013 at our widely known New Years Cup, which has become the top winter lacrosse event in Europe, thanks to our unique venue, which is a full sized covered football field. The New Years Cup also helped put us on the map to get recognised by the lacrosse community and give us enough experience and practice in organizing a large tournament. In 2010, a women’s team was formed in Budapest whom we practice side by side with.

They travel to various tournaments and started winning games as of this year. Obviously the biggest news and biggest step for us has been winning the right to host the European Championships. The first national team is being put together right now, and we plan to have our first exhibition games next summer against some of our neighboring countries.

What impact do you think bringing a high profile event like the European Championships will do for lacrosse in your country?
Since lacrosse is so much less known in eastern Europe, than in the west, this even is exactly what Hungary, and all our other eastern European neighbors needed to finally get the sport of lacrosse into the heads of people around here. I would compare it to almost as big of an influence, as if we managed to get lacrosse on standard TV programming in our country. But this event will no doubt help us achieve this goal of ours as well.

I’m estimating a significant increase in new players joining the program after the ECs, and giving an opportunity for our neighboring national teams to finally make their first national team appearance, like Serbia and Croatia. For these guys, getting to the US or England would be financially out of reach (and for us as well), but to just take a short drive, it opens up the tournament for our region.

And last but not least, if we can make some money from the tournament, we plan to use it for general marketing of the sport itself, and to kick start a youth program here in Budapest, to make Hungary competitive in the long run internationally.

What can we expect at EC2016?
I think the level of professionalism is going to be the most remarkable, considering the people who will be taking part in the event execution. We have managed to get on board a super skilled event organizer, Mr. Zsolt Dániel who has a very impressive resume when it comes to high profile events. He has been in charge of events such as Formula 1 Receptions at the Hungaroring for Renault and McLaren, and numerous corporate events for brands like Coca Cola, GE, and Cosmopolitan (just to name a few).

Our team also has top professionals from the world of online and offline marketing, both of whom have their own successful consulting businesses in their respective fields. And when you put a team like this together, all motivated by one goal – the grow the sport in Hungary, through an event that everyone will remember for a long time – I think we have the recipe for success. Budapest has been voted many times as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, so we will aim to bring as much of these Hungarian specialties close to the event as possible.

In 2012 we saw 20 nations compete, can we expect more teams in 2016?
Considering our tournaments low costs (to my understanding it will be significantly cheaper than the last European Championships), plus our central location in Europe, I trust to have almost a maximum turnout. Plus lets not forget how many new teams have emerged since the last European Championship preparation period.