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Iceland football chief resigns in sexual assault scandal

The head of Iceland’s football association (KSI) has resigned after two women claimed a national squad player had sexually harassed and assaulted them in 2017, with one of the women accusing the association of trying to pay her off to stay silent.

Gudni Bergsson, who has served as KSI chairman since 2017, stepped down late Sunday after a series of weekend meetings, which were followed by a KSI statement acknowledging that the association’s board had not handled the situation correctly.

Thorhildur Gyda Arnarsdottir, now 25, told public broadcaster RUV on Friday that a member of the national team had grabbed her crotch and grabbed her by the neck, before assaulting her with another individual, in a Reykjavik nightclub in September 2017.

She claimed that a lawyer representing the association then asked if she would sign a non-disclosure agreement and receive financial compensation to stay silent, which she refused.

The association denied that one of its lawyers had offered such a deal.

She told RUV the player admitted the facts, apologised, and paid her an undisclosed sum as compensation.

Several media have identified the player in question as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

The association has not confirmed the identity of the player, but did say in a statement that Sigthorsson would not play in three upcoming games against Romania, North Macedonia and Germany “due to a decision taken by the board”.

Arnarsdottir and another woman had filed police reports against a player for sexual assault that night.

Arnarsdottir also said she knew of at least six other players who had been accused of sexual assaults by other women.

Bergsson’s resignation came after he was found to be lying when he told national television on Thursday that the association had “not received a complaint or any kind of suggestion that someone in particular has been guilty of sexual offences.” 

In a statement late Sunday addressed to the victims, the board said: “We… believe you and sincerely apologise. We know that we as guarantors have let you down and we intend to do better.”

“We take the matter very seriously. Work is already underway with external professionals to review all responses to sexual offenses and violence within the association and how support was and will be provided to victims,” the statement read.

It said it would “fix the things that have gone wrong and look at the culture that exists within the football movement from the bottom up.”

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