volleyball player holding a ball

Women’s volleyball team refuse to wear bikini bottoms at Olympics, get fined because of sexist rules

When playing sports, what do you typically like to wear? Chances are, something comfortable that allows for movement and that, frankly, you can forget about and focus on the game. This is exactly what the Norwegian Women’s Beach Handball team wants. Unfortunately, they, as well as every other women’s volleyball team, are being forced to wear small bikini bottoms and tight bra tops, while the men can essentially wear what they want. The team was recently given a hefty fine for protesting these sexist uniform requirements at the European Championships. (1)

Norwegian Women’s Volleyball Team Fined For Wearing Shorts Instead Of Bikini Bottoms

The European Handball Federation dolled out a hefty fine to the Norwegian women’s volleyball team, as well as threatened disqualification, for “improper clothing”. The EHF says it was a case of shorts that are not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF Beach Handball Rules of the Game. What are these standards, you ask? Well, for men, they are as follows (2):

  • A sleeveless, close-fitting tank top
  • Shorts that aren’t too baggy that are no longer than 10cm (4 inches) above the knee

For the women, however, uniform requirements are:

  • Top: A midriff design that must be close fitting with deep cutaway armholes 
  • Bottom: Bikini bottoms with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg. The side width must be of a maximum of 10 centimetres (4 inches). 

The difference between each team’s uniform can be seen in the photo below:

Image Credit; Twitter

In Norway, the women’s Beach Handball team wears what they want in practice and competitions. They prefer shorts because they are more comfortable, especially when a player has her period. They feel less exposed, less sexualized, and better able to focus on the game.


“It’s not [appropriate clothing for] the activity when they are playing in the sand,” Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio told NBC News by phone from Oslo.

The Protest

They petitioned the EHF to be allowed to wear shorts instead of the bikini bottoms ahead of the tournament but were told they would be fined or disqualified if they did so. The team decided that they’d had enough of these misogynistic uniform rules. In their bronze medal match against Spain, they decided it was now or never and they wore shorts. 


“It was very spontaneous. We thought, ‘Let’s just do it now, and then see what happens,'” said player Katinka Haltvik.

The Norwegian Handball Federation was one hundred percent on board with their decision.


“I got a message 10 minutes before the match that they would wear the clothing that they were satisfied with. And they got our full support,” they said.

They are not the only team opposed to the rule. Many other teams are now speaking out as well. They state that there are many women who stop playing because of rules like this, for both personal and religious reasons. Many of the teams, especially the European ones subjected to this rule, are now speaking out as well.


The Repercussions

Of course, there were consequences to this decision. The EHF fined the team $177 US per player, which ended up being just over $5700 for the whole team. The NHF was not bothered to pay the fine in order to support the team’s fight for equality in the sport. (3)


“We at NHF stand behind you and support you. Together we will continue to fight to change the rules for clothing, so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with,” the NHF said on Twitter.

It is important to note that the International Volleyball Federation changed its rules back in 2012. The female athletes are allowed to choose what they wear: Shorts and t-shirts, bikinis, or one-piece bathing suits.


Keep Reading: Horribly Sexist Things That Show How Messed Up Our Society Is To Women


  1. Norwegian women’s beach handball team fined for not playing in bikinis.” NBC News. Caroline Radnofsky. July 20, 2021
  2. IHF
  3. Norway’s beach handball team hit by fine after dropping bikinis for shorts.” CBC. Thomson Reuters. July 21, 2021.
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.