László Tóth, right, insists that "cooperation is key to success" in 2023 ©EJU

European Judo Union (EJU) President László Tóth has admitted that this year will be remembered as "especially challenging" but insisted "cooperation is key to success" in 2023.

Tóth's comments came in an emotional opening speech at his first Ordinary Congress as head of the continental governing body.

The Hungarian was elected as the EJU President at the body's Extraordinary Congress in June.

He succeeded Russian Sergey Soloveychik who ended his 15-year reign when he stepped down in February in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Germany's Otto Kneitinger held the top job on an interim basis before Tóth secured the permanent position.

"The year 2022 will be remembered as an especially challenging one," said Tóth at the Ordinary Congress in Slovenian capital Ljubljana.

Sergey Soloveychik stepped down as EJU President in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine ©EJU
Sergey Soloveychik stepped down as EJU President in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine ©EJU

"But despite all the difficulties still going on, it also showed that judo really is more than sport.

"As European judo family, we concentrated on working together.

"We not only delivered wonderful events together, but also established a new atmosphere and closer partnerships - within our European family as well as the International Judo Federation (IJF).

"I believe that cooperation is key to success, so we will definitely continue this path in 2023 - and I firmly believe doing so, judo can also send an important message to society."

Representatives from 46 of the 51 National Federations attended the EJU Ordinary Congress where all the reports were approved unanimously.

The EJU Executive Committee also delivered plans for 2023 - a year set to feature 104 tournaments across Europe.

"With the pandemic hopefully behind us, in 2023 we can finally start with full power again to host more than 100 events together with our member federations," said Hryoje Lindi, EJU vice-president for sports.

"We will also start a support project for athletes, where the goal is of course the best possible results at the upcoming World Championships and Olympic Games.

"Another important project is the beginning of a close cooperation between the Coach, Athlete and Referee Commissions."

More than 100 judo events are planned to be held across Europe next year ©IJF
More than 100 judo events are planned to be held across Europe next year ©IJF

EJU refereeing director Alexander Jatskevich insisted that he wants to raise the quality and quantity of European referees in 2023.

"Exactly half of the 54 referees who were active on the IJF World Tour in 2022 were from Europe," said Jatskevich.

"So at the top of the referee pyramid, we are doing great already.

"But in 2023, we also want to attract and educate a new generation of referees.

"We want to give young and aspiring referees from National Federations the chances, to not only learn from the very best but also to prove themselves on international level."

EJU senior vice-president Kneitinger underlined the support the support the organisation had given National Federations, with €1 million (£860,000/$1.05 million) going to them through its pandemic programme over the past 12 months.

"This was a family act with the help of our suppliers and partners, but in the end turned out as a win-win-situation for everyone," added Kneitinger.

"In addition, we were also able to give €150,000 ($233,000/€97,000) via a solidarity fund to federations that were having real problems in 2022.

"Next year we will continue to promote judo all over Europe with projects like the offering of free high-level steaming production for 10 additional tournaments, the creation of additional social media channels to reach new target audiences and a special marketing project focusing on the road to Paris 2024."