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Saturday, April 13, 2013


Pat's Football Blog searched high and low for opinions from those in Icelandic media, sporting and political circles with regard to Icelandic football at the time of the credit-crunch in 2008 and its after-effects. Sadly, despite the best efforts of your correspondent, most requests for assistance went unanswered. 

One man who did respond was Gísli Gíslason, chairman of top-flight ÍA Akranes (referred to below as Akranes FC, but normally known in Iceland and beyond as plain old ÍA), one of the most famous clubs in Icelandic fotball. who sent the below missive in January 2012; it was felt that it was more than worthy of the space normally given over to an article all by itself.

"After the fall of the Icelandic banks some clubs in Iceland lost their main sponsors. That happened to Akranes as the Kaupthing bank was the main sponsor. Many other sponsors lowered their contribution - and some could not fulfill their contract obligations. This had obviously a very negative effect on our finances and the finances of other clubs. This is more or less the same thing other clubs had to deal with from 2008 to 2010.   

"Fortunately, Akranes FC had no debts, so less income was met with changes in players' contracts and general cost cuts. This enabled us to find a balance between income and cost. But, of course that meant that we had to rely more than before on younger, homegrown players.

"Regarding other clubs, most of them have gone through the same process as Akranes. The clubs that were in debt in 2008 have some had more difficulties as inflation and/or unfavorable changes in the currency (Icelandic Krona vs. foreign currency) have made their task of paying debts more difficult. [A worsening] economic situation for the municipalities has also halted or delayed improvement of stadiums and also resulted in reduced contracts for operation costs -as some municipalities have a special contract of operation with sports clubs - mainly in Reykjavik and Hafnarfjörður.

"There is though a better side to things in two areas.  One is regarding payments from UEFA from the clubs that qualify for European competitions. With a reduced Icelandic krona, each EURO is more valuable in Iskr. [Icelandic Krona] so those clubs benefit from that. Secondly, clubs that have been able to sell players abroad benefit in the same way. On the other hand, foreign players are now more expensive than before when they are signed by Icelandic clubs.

"Recently, the general secretary of the football association [the KSÍ] expressed his concern over some Icelandic top division clubs because of their financial situation. Some clubs are heavily in debt - but others are in a much better state. The general secretary believes that there is more reason to believe now that some clubs might be in danger of being relegated because of their financial situation.

"In the year 2011, we saw a slight improvement regarding financial responsibility of the clubs. Not as many foreign players were in Iceland as before and more young Icelandic players had a chance of playing. This in itself is positive, even though the quality of football was perhaps in some peoples' view not as good as before. Iceland has been able to present a strong under-21 team for some time - and more and better young players are emerging. 

"Even though the economic situation in Iceland has stabilised (but not improved so much), sponsors are hard and harder then before to get and the amount of sponsor contracts is somewhat lower than before. Clubs that sell players or qualify for European competitions and are in a fair state financially could gain an advantage on other Icelandic clubs in the future as result of the situation.

"As for Akranes FC, the last three years have been difficult - even though the club's finances have been stable. The club was relegated in the 2008, but won promotion again 2011. There is a saying here that when Akranes FC are relegated there will be an economic crisis in Iceland (1966, 1990 and 2008) - and when the club is in the top division things get better. We hope this [will be as] true as before.  

"The club has been in a small profit the last three years and relied on homegrown players - with the addition of one or two foreign players (last year two from England). The same will be done this year - the younger boys that have played for the first team for the last three years are expected to mature for the top league - and we will have one or two Englishmen in the side.  

"Apart from them, every player (except one who is married to a girl from Akranes!) is born and/or raised in Akranes - among them Johannes Guðjónsson who will return to Akranes from a professional career. He is now at Huddersfield - but the family is moving home after about 15 years abroad.  Akranes has had around 40 professional football players in Europe for the last 30 years - and we hope to produce some more in coming years - as we aim to add to our 75 European games!"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: ÍA Akranes will not be adding to their 75 games in all European competitions this year as they finished in a still-respectable sixth place in last season's Úrvalsdeild, three points off an Europa League place; they were also knocked out in the third round of the 2012 Icelandic FA Cup. Gísli Gíslason quit as chairman of ÍA a few days before he wrote the above to take up a post on the board of the KSÏ. Many thanks to him for a superbly informative piece, and best wishes to him in his new position.

Next up in the series is a short question-and-answer article, with questions kindly answered by an advisor to the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

Link to Part 1:
Link to Part 3:
Link to Part 4:

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