Icelandic Politics And The Football Effect

[Opinion] There has been a lot of discussion surrounding politics affecting football, namely with Brexit and the Premier League. However, what happens when the opposite occurs, and football affects politics.

The impact of the Brexit, and its impact on the English Premier League, has been a topic of much debate over the last 48 hours. The role that a political decision could have on the nation’s footballing environment is unclear, and for many, concerning.

It has spawned an entire debate about the role of politics, and the impact of politics, on football. There have been predictions, both forecasting minor impact and catastrophic collapse, while others have argued over the concept of politics having such a significant role in football.

However, in recent days, it is not the only story to have emerged, involving a relationship between politics and football. Iceland has offered up a very different situation, almost a vice versa to Brexit and the Premier League, an issue of football directly impacting politics, rather than the other way around.

The exploits of Iceland’s men national football team at the current European Championships in France is somewhat of a fairytale happening for the nation’s sports. It is driving national spirit, earning them recognition and support internationally, and is a wonderful underdog story.

However, the team’s involvement in the sporting tournament, almost 2,500km away from their home, doesn’t appear on the surface likely to affect the country beyond its sporting enterprises. It certainly doesn’t seem to have any major relationship with the politics of Iceland.

Yet, there is a very real possibility that the nation’s involvement in Euro 2016 might directly affect the future of the nation of nearly 330,000 people, shaping its political future.

For that is because Iceland will soon go to the polls, to vote in a presidential election. The current favourite in that election is a historian, who holds no experience of public office, named Gudni Johannesson.

While Johannesson’s predicted success may have come about without Iceland’s unexpectedly lengthy involvement in the Euros – having shocked many in progressing into the knockout stages – it will certainly have some impact on the national voting turnout. Local reports have predicted a turnout as low as 65%, considerably short of normal turnouts for the Nordic nation.

This turnout is directly because of the football. The Icelandic consulate in France is flying ballot papers to the team hotel in Annecy so that the players can vote. As such, despite their commitments in France, their votes and their voice will not go unheard.

However, there are no such arrangements for Icelandic fans in France, which is monumentally significant, considering that some 10% of Iceland’s population is thought to be in France watching the country’s footballers at Euro 2016.

To have no plan to allow a tenth of the country’s population to vote could dramatically change the outcome, and is certainly a fascinating, and likely unique, situation to have seen occur.

It must be understood that the presidency in Iceland is a largely ceremonial post, and so if a decision vastly different does emerge, it is not going to be as significant as if it had been other elected roles. Similarly, there is still expected to be a 65% turnout, so most will remain to get their say heard.

Nevertheless, 10% of Iceland’s population is still more than 30,000 people. Around 30,000 votes that will not be included in an election does certainly present issues, and issues that have come about from a highly unusual situation.

Certainly, nobody had expected, when Iceland did stun much of Europe by progressing through to the knockout rounds, that their match against England – just by existing – may directly impact the future of the country.

It is quite a strange situation, and further shows the relationship of football and politics – that their intrinsically linked, rather than it being politics forcing its influence into the sport.

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Categories: Opinion

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