Iceland’s football sexual assault scandal shows sport still isn't safe for women

The Athletic has revealed damning details of Iceland’s football sexual assault scandal, which began to come to light in May

The Athletic has revealed damning details of Iceland’s football sexual assault scandal, which began to come to light in May. 

At the start of September, the entirety of the Icelandic Football Association (KSI) Board resigned after the sexual assault allegations emerged.

KSI President Gudni Bergsson had quit days earlier, but the remaining Board members decided to step down after a five hour emergency meeting.

Although these resignations took place in September, the allegations first started to trickle out in May.

The Athletic tells how a woman named 'Dalia' wrote an Instagram post describing how she was raped by two members of the Icelandic men’s national football team while in Copenhagen.

Her allegations reached national prominence in August when Hanna Bjorg Vilhjalmsdottir, a teacher who knew Dalia as a child, wrote a column about the situation in newspaper Visir.

According to The Athletic, senior figures at KSI, including Bergsson, were made aware of the allegations involving members of the national football team. But Bergsson claimed in a TV interview that KSI had not received any formal complaints of sexual violence.

Gudni Bergsson resigned as President of the Icelandic Football Association

This proved to be his downfall. A day later, another woman, Thorhildur Gyda Arnarsdottir, alleged on live television that she had been assaulted and sexually harassed by an Iceland player in 2017.

Arnarsdottir also claimed that her father had spoken to Bergsson about the incident shortly afterwards. She alleged the player admitted to the incident, apologised and paid compensation.

Bergsson publicly apologised and claimed he thought he thought of the case as physical abuse, as opposed to sexual assault, but resigned after a number of crisis meetings.

The remainder of the KSI Board claimed they had not been informed of the sexual assault allegations, only finding out when Dalia and Arnarsdottir went public with their claims. But they all eventually stepped down too.

Iceland's sexual assault scandal has parallels with the NWSL scandal

The appalling situation in Iceland is the latest example of sport being an unsafe space for women.

This time, it is male sport stars enacting sexual violence against women, but there are also recent cases of sportswomen being subject to sexual assault and misconduct.

The NWSL is one of the most high-profile examples. The league has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct since the start of October.

There are parallels with Iceland’s sexual assault scandal – in both instances, the people in charge were made aware of the allegations before they were made public, but did not take appropriate action.

For women to feel safe in and around sport, organisations, governing bodies and leaders must take sexual assault allegations seriously and implement the correct framework to make sure similar incidents do not happen again.

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