Sporting overachievement is a product of a particularly well-funded, well-organised domestic grassroots landscape in which all Icelandic clubs have salaried, professionally certified coaches who train children in structured, inclusive environments from a young age. Iceland, in turn, outperforms grassroots structures across the world with much longer histories and much deeper talent pools.
What grassroots sport does with esports in Iceland is that it doesn’t really focus on the competition aspect, it doesn’t focus on the endpoint of the journey, it focuses on the journey. It focuses on making every minute of engaging with the hobby, through organised practice, meaningful and rewarding for everyone that participates.
The Icelandic Esports Association (IEA) was set up in 2018 to provide infrastructure for the country’s esports scene. Riding on the back of Iceland’s renowned traditional grassroots sporting infrastructure, the IEA is replicating the highly successful grassroots model that enables the country to excel in international sport despite a population of just 350,000.
Since 2018, the IEA has leveraged the country’s traditional grassroots club infrastructure to provide a self-sufficient ecosystem where anyone can enjoy an organised, constructive and social way of engaging with esports. Working with Reykjavík city council, the IEA helped pass a council proposal to support those same celebrated local sports clubs in opening esports departments and facilities.
The IEA plans to export its expertise internationally through a software package that will guide people in setting up esports gyms. The initiative looks to provide other nations with the same value and structure as those in Iceland.
Iceland’s unique, successful, and financially viable grassroots esports infrastructure has spawned ambitious aspirations. One of which is to become a top five esports nation by 2025.