Euro 2016

Euro 2016: Iceland swamped by demand for shirts

Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson during the Euro 2016 match between England and Iceland in Nice on June 27.
Iceland's defender Ragnar Sigurdsson during the Euro 2016 match between England and Iceland in Nice on June 27. PHOTO: AFP

Not enough tickets or jerseys for growing fan base as tiny Nordic nation causes Euro fever

PARIS • Iceland's improbable run at Euro 2016 has drawn parallels with Leicester City's remarkable Premier League title win last season.

And, just as it was for the English champions, the Nordic country is finding it hard to meet unexpected demand for its jerseys.

Iceland, a country the size of Leicester with a population of about 300,000, is playing in its first major football tournament.

It shocked the world on Monday by eliminating heavily favoured England with a 2-1 victory in a round of 16 game in Nice, France.

 

The result cost England manager Roy Hodgson his job and resulted in a slew of fresh orders for Sport Company ehf, Iceland's official jersey distributor, as well as Errea, the Italian sportswear company that makes the apparel.

Iceland's national stadium has a capacity of 9,800, and Sport Company had estimated demand for jerseys to be about triple that amount, according to its general manager Thorvaldur Olafsson.

That has proved to be woefully short as Iceland took off on a surprise run to the quarter-finals, where they will meet hosts France on Sunday.

"This is just like the Leicester adventure," Olafsson said in Reykjavik, where he was supervising the printing of the players' names on the jerseys the team will wear versus France.

He will hand-deliver them to the team after flying to Paris on a special charter plane with fans.

"The requests on our website are enormous, but you are not able to buy them any more because we can't meet the demand," he said.

Iceland, who have seen their tournament odds drop to 33-1 from 80-1 with British bookmaker William Hill, is also providing a boon to Errea.

Iceland is the Parma-based company's first team to make it through to a European Championship, the third most watched sporting event after the Olympics and World Cup.

The majority of national jerseys are produced by Nike, adidas and Puma,.

Puma, which made Leicester's shirts, was unable to meet demand when the 5,000-1 outsiders topped the Premier League table.

It ran out of new jerseys in January, four months before the end of the season.

Errea, which has two factories, is just about keeping up with demand from retailers because it produces everything in-house, according to Fabrizio Taddei, its export manager.

"We are working 24/7 with a night shift and so we are every day sending out all the shirts we have," Taddei said. "We are a manufacturer as well, so our strength is that we can almost reply on demand. But it's havoc here at the moment."

Iceland's shock success has dominated talk in the country, with the main news channel devoting the first three stories to the football team, according to Olafsson.

That has meant demand for team apparel from people "who don't even know what offside is or what football is".

The BBC reported that as many as 30,000 people from Iceland, or 10 per cent of its population, missed last week's presidential election there because they were in France following the national football team.

An allocation of additional tickets for Iceland fans was sold out in less than three minutes on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, reigning Olympic 200m freestyle champion Yannick Agnel promised to swim all the way around Iceland should they go all the way in France.

While almost certainly made tongue-in-cheek, his promise caused much mirth at Iceland's pre-match press conference.

"I wouldn't recommend it, but that is possible, although he'll have to pick the right weather," said co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.

BLOOMBERG, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'Iceland swamped by demand for shirts'. Print Edition | Subscribe