It was with great shock and sadness that I recently learned that a major contributor to american football in Norway for several decades, Rolv Bjarne Nicolaysen, recently passed away.
It was the Oslo Vikings who first reported the dramatic and terrible news. Rolv Bjarne died of a heart attack during a recent business trip, age 48.
Rolv Bjarne Nicolaysen started playing football in the mid 80s when he joined the recently founded Westside Vikings (now named Oslo Vikings). Many within the Norwegian football community will remember Rolv Bjarne as a solid player -primarily as a defensive back- during his years playing for the Vikings from 1986 until 1997, but he is perhaps best remembered for the numerous leadership roles he took on at both the club and federation level as his playing days came to an end.
Personally I first got to know Rolv Bjarne shortly after he’d stepped down as vice president of the Norwegian federation, where he in cooperation with the president at the time, Stein-Arne Tjore, helped the federation take great strides in the right direction with his professional approach both with regards to organizational structures, vision and plans for the future. Rolv Bjarne was as passionate about the sport in a leadership role off the field as he had been as a player on the field. It is for example worth mentioning that he took a full year off to focus on working for free for the federation, living on his own savings while tirelessly working into the late hours of the night to create better conditions for football in Norway.
As is too often the case in organizations based on volunteer work, a lot of that work was not followed up properly by others after Rolv Bjarne left the federation office. However, some of us did have the fortune of getting to know both Rolv Bjarne and the legacy he left behind at the federation. I was lucky enough to spend a great deal of time learning from Rolv Bjarne in the fall of 1998 and spring of 1999 at the actual office of the Norwegian federation.
At the time the office was in fact a rented apartment in the middle of Oslo, and in exchange for working part time as secretary general for the federation I got to live there for a couple of years. Although Rolv Bjarne had resigned from his role as vice president he still came by the federation office several times each week. At the time he was trying to launch his own company, and he had a deal with the federation where he could use the office in relation to that. For me it was a great opportunity to learn more about what had happened within the federation -and football in Norway in general- in the years prior to my arrival in Oslo, and Rolv Bjarne was more than happy to share his valuable insights and knowledge. A lot of the information and the approach to both football and business that Rolv Bjarne taught me back then is knowledge that I’ve brought with me both within football and my professional career over the past 20 years. Rolv Bjarne Nicolaysen made an impact, and it stuck.
After his time within the federation ended Rolv Bjarne‘s focus shifted from football towards business. From what I understand he succeeded in business as well, and at the time of his untimely death he was the CFO as well as one of the major owners of Incita, a company with several hundred employees.
However, Rolv Bjarne Nicolaysen never left football completely, keeping a keen eye on the Norwegian football scene. That continous passion for the sport would also turn into a good number of years on the board of the Oslo Vikings, including several years as president for the club where he started playing football back in 1986.
Rolv Bjarne was a constantly engaging, knowledgeable and well spoken member of the football community in Norway, and it was always a privilege to discuss the sport -on many levels- with him. He was a very good example for why it’s important to listen to more than your own thoughts about subject matters that come up, being the best example for the openness and democratic culture that he himself promoted and laid some of the foundations for within football in Norway.
I do not think it was purely coincidental that it was during Rolv Bjarne Nicolaysens years in the Norwegian federation that we saw an organization which was not only willing to listen to it’s members, but actively worked to make that dialogue happen. One of those activities included setting up a message board on the federation website and letting people speak their mind and get answers in open discussions there.
That message board was the start of a small wave of Norwegian football websites from both teams and individuals who wanted to follow the example Rolv Bjarne and some of the others in the federation set at the time. In many ways the website where I am the editor, Amerikansk Fotball, is a result of that kind of attitude towards what the sport needs to be to grow. Rolv Bjarne led the way, and we followed in his footsteps.
I, and many others in the football community, owe a lot to Rolv Bjarne Nicolaysen and what he stood for.
– Jarle Magnus Henriksen