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Changes in European age group competitions an ‘exciting opportunity’

Swim England water polo programme lead Craig Figes has welcomed the changes to European Aquatics age group competitions, saying they provide an ‘exciting opportunity’.

The European governing body have revealed that the new European competitions for U16, U18 and U20s will now played in two parts and without a qualification tournament.

It continues the revamp of European age group events which are also changing from U15, U17 and U19 competitions to U16, U18 and U20 Championships from 2025.

Each of the new events will be separated in to two divisions with the top 16 teams making up the ‘Division Elite’ and the remaining entries will compete in ‘Division I’.

The move will allow for more countries to play a full European Water Polo Championships rather than just targeting a qualification weekend event in an effort to reach the top eight or 16 teams.

Going forward the two highest ranking sides from Division I will be promoted to the Division Elite, replacing the two lowest sides from the top division for the following editions.

“A tournament to aim for”

Great Britain will look to enter a side into each of the U18 and U20 events, following the formation of the nation’s new U20 squads last month.

It will mean that Great Britain’s U18 female side will be a part of Division Elite next summer following the U17s teams 13th place finish at the Championships back in September whilst the male side will have a big competition to focus on in 2025.

For the U20s the men’s team will be in Division I whilst the female teams place will be decided following the European U19 Championships in September.

Speaking on the changes Figes said: “I am excited that this change has been adopted by European Aquatics.

“It was a proposal I was very much behind and an opportunity that can help Great Britain as a nation develop on an international level.

“It gives each of our age group squads a tournament to aim for throughout each cycle and allows us the chance to target improvements each year to help us narrow the gap to the top of the sport.

“We will also have more freedom in the spring period which is a busy period in the domestic calendar and will give clarity for players and parents that all their time and effort will result in a major Championships at the end of the process.”

The U18 European Water Polo Championships are scheduled to be held next summer with the U20 event a year later. The exact dates have yet to be confirmed.