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Icelandic Football Shaken By Snowballing Sex Scandal

An Iceland's supporter is pictured ahead of the Euro 2016 group F football match between Iceland and Hungary at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on June 18, 2016
© AFP 2021 / BORIS HORVAT

In the course of recent weeks, the Icelandic Football Association has been showered with accusations against current and former national team players, including of alleged gang rape.

Director of the Icelandic Football Association Gudni Bergsson has announced his resignation amid criticism of the Association's handling of revelations about sexual violence by members of the Icelandic football league, including national team players.

Since the sex scandal started to unfold, two members of the national football squad have been removed from the line-up in upcoming qualifiers for the World Cup, the news outlet Iceland Review reported.

The Icelandic Football Association has, meanwhile, been accused of silencing victims and condoning sexual violence. The scandal was triggered in mid-August by an article, whose author called to end the culture of silence surrounding sexual assaults and domestic violence committed by Icelandic football players, citing social media revelations.

The Icelandic Football Association responded that it was unaware of any accusations of sexual abuse against Iceland's national team players. This spurred a 25-year-old woman into revealing an incident that occurred four years ago, when a player from team Iceland allegedly harassed her and another woman at a nightclub in Reykjavik.

The two women reported the incident to the police and according to the 25-year-old, the Icelandic Football Association has been aware of the accusations for a long time. So much so that a lawyer connected to the association contacted her and offered her to sign a confidentiality agreement which also included financial compensation.

By her own admission, she refused to sign, but said she instead reached a settlement with the player who paid damages and apologised to her personally. She said she had no grievances with the football player but she wasn't expecting him to be chosen for the national team when the Football Association knew of his violent actions.

Over the course of the last week, similar accusations have been floated on social media against several current and former national team players, including an alleged gang rape more than ten years ago.

The impact of the accusations may have been enhanced by another recent high-profile sexual assault case involving popular media personality and podcaster Sölvi Tryggvason, which shook the island nation. Furthermore, yet another recent high-profile case of a football player accused of sexual assault is that of Everton player Gylfi Thór Sigurdsson. He has been accused of sexual abuse in the UK. As a result, stakeholders within the football industry as well as government ministers have expressed concern and requested clarification from the nation's football association.

Several crisis meetings, to which both a sexologist and representatives of a support group for victims of sexual crimes were invited, led to the resignation of Gudni Bergsson.

The association's board has issued a public apology to the affected women, but does not intend to resign.

"We on the board of the Icelandic Football Association believe you and sincerely apologise. We have let you down and we intend to do better", the board said.

It also promised to set up an expert group to further increase knowledge of the matter within the union.

"We take this very seriously. We have already begun collaborating with independent experts to review how we have acted around sexual and violent crimes within the union, and how we have supported and will support victims".

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