The Icelandic Football Association had knowledge of more allegations of sexual offences than the one reported over the weekend, RÚV reports. They received reports of an alleged gang rape this summer and another incident was brought to their attention over the weekend. In addition to the Association’s director, the entire board has now resigned but the Association’s CEO told RÚV she did not intend to resign despite pressure to do so.
Board Pressured to Resign
Reports of sexual assaults by members of Icelandic football, including members of the men’s national team shook Iceland over the past weekend. Following marathon meetings and coming under fire in the media, Director Guðni Bergsson resigned. The Association’s board did not intend to resign at first, with one of the Association’s Deputy Directors Borghildur Sigurðardóttir stating that the entire board resigning would render the Association incapacitated.
The result was unsatisfactory according to Íslenskur Toppfótbolti, an organised interest group of Iceland’s top football leagues, including both men’s and women’s teams. An Íslenskur toppfótbolti board member stated to Vísir that “by and large, people don’t think enough is being done and are unsatisfied with the Icelandic Football Association over the weekend. People think more needs to be done. The leadership is stripped of trust and […] Guðni alone can’t carry that cross.”
The board of Íslenskur Toppfótbolti later issued a statement demanding that Klara Bjartmarz, the Icelandic Football Association’s CEO and the entire board resign. The statement also included demands that an extraordinary annual meeting be held to elect a temporary board, as per the Association’s laws, to regain trust within the football leagues and the public. The statement notes: “The Association’s CEO and part of the board have held office for a long time and in light of their position they are responsible for the issues that have been discussed for the past few days. Football in Iceland can’t accept that the current board of the Icelandic Football Association and the Association’s CEO will lead the effort to fix things that have been broken and to scrutinise the current culture from the ground up.”
Following Íslenskur Toppfótbolti’s statement, nine football clubs issued demands that the Icelandic Football Association calls an annual meeting immediately to elect a new board. The clubs are Einherji, ÍR, Magni, Leiknir F. Hamar, Völsungur, Víðir, Njarðvík, and KV. Their statement reads that the reputation of Icelandic football has been greatly damaged, making it necessary to call an annual meeting and shape reactions that for the future will earn the trust of all of the Associated clubs as well as the community as a whole.
Longtime KSÍ sponsors such as Coca-cola Iceland, Landsbankinn Bank, and Icelandair have also been in touch with the association requesting more information. A press release from Icelandic Football Association stated that their representatives will be in touch with all major sponsors to respond to “loud demands from major sponsors that real change will be effected within the Icelandic football and the association.” They added that they appreciate the “clear message” they have received that believable steps towards change must be taken.
The board resigns, Klara is staying
The board had another meeting yesterday, which lasted into the night. Following that meeting, it was announced that the entire board would be resigning and calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Association in four weeks. Invites with information on the date, schedule and organisation of the meeting will be sent out to associated clubs within the next few days, the notice states. It is also noted that the board would like to express that a workgroup’s efforts to reexamine reactions to sexual offences and violence within the association, and how victims have been supported and will be supported moving forward, will remain a priority. This is in tune with challenges from Íslenskur toppfótbolti and the wishes of Associated Clubs, as well as societal pressure to call for an extraordinary meeting.
The board will also meet with UEFA and FIFA representatives to reassure them that no interference with the Icelandic Football Association will be necessary.
While the Board and Director of the Icelandic Football Association have now resigned, the Association’s CEO Klara Bjartmarz has no intentions of resigning. In yesterday’s 10 o’clock news, Klara told RÚV: “I am an employee of the football association and have been working here for 27 years, which is a long time. I’m ready to keep going and will work with a new board when that time comes.” Íslenskur Toppfótbolti has also called for Klara’s resignation in order to regain the public and the football leagues’ trust in the Association. As the Director has resigned, the power to lay Klara off as an employee of the Association lies with the board but according to one of the acting directors of the association Gísli Gíslason, they do not intend to use it. He stated to Vísir that: “It’s important that the CEO’s work will be handled fairly.”
The Association had knowledge of alleged group rape since the summer
When asked if Þórhildur’s case was the only one reported to the Association, Klara revealed that the Icelandic Football Association also had knowledge of an incident of group rape. She stated that she had heard of the case this summer and that it was currently “in process” within the Association. She added that another incident of the sexual offence had been reported to a board member this weekend. She does not know if the new incident also involves a member of the national team. “I didn’t ask about specifics but I know that a board member was notified, passed it along immediately, and started the process. Sexual offences are a sensitive subject and shouldn’t be passed around. We should make sure that they are treated but we shouldn’t discuss them if it’s not needed.”
Vísir reports that it’s likely that the group rape in question concerns a woman around thirty who stated on Instagram this May that two Icelandic men had raped her in another country in 2010. They were well known then and one is quite famous today. They have both been members of the national team and one of them is one of the biggest stars of the men’s national team.
In her post, the woman states: “I had drunk some alcohol but I suspect something was put in my drink, could have been anything. To make a long story short, I threw up over one of them in the taxi on the way to their hotel, and again in the hotel bed, but they didn’t let that stop them and took turns raping me where I lay in the bed naked from the waist down with vomit in my hair, face, and clothes,” the post read. The woman was around 20 when the incident occurred.
She added that not a day passes in the eleven years that have passed that she wasn’t reminded of it. She intended to press charges, hired a lawyer and was deposed with the police. Everywhere, she was told that the case would be difficult to pursue as it had happened in another country and there were two against one. She was asked over and over again if she wanted to go through that. “After months of waiting, I decided not to pursue it any further, I wasn’t strong enough, I couldn’t go through more emotionally.”
She posted her story under her own name and reposted it this weekend, tagging the Icelandic Football Association.
Professional footballer calls for abolition of toxic culture
Footballer Garðar Gunnlaugsson weighed in on Twitter yesterday, saying that it would take more than new leadership to fix the toxic football culture. He asks boys in football to take part in the fight to create a healthier environment within football where misogyny and racism is a thing of the past. “well boys,” Garðar wrote. “The least part of the problem has been laid off, the board of the Icelandic Football Association. That’s not where the problem lies, the problem is largely rooted in this toxic culture we’ve grown up in as athletes, be it amateurs or professional players. We have the opportunity to change the culture and make sure young footballers grow up in a healthier environment where misogyny and minority prejudice is a thing of the past. It’s not an overnight change, it will take time but let’s make it start with us! Let’s be role models!” Garðar called increased education for players and increased training for coaches “a minimum requirement.” Garðar still plays football professionally in Iceland but has also played in Scotland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Austria and Germany over the course of his career. He was also a member of the men’s national team.