Finland is sometimes overlooked in the realms of sports. You wouldn’t call the country itself small, but with a smaller population, the media coverage is understandably lower. Don’t be fooled, though. The Finns are avid sports fans! While they don’t have the numbers of most other European countries, they have something that most other countries don’t – snow! The snow and ice sports are extremely popular in Finland. They have a strong football following as most European countries do, but we’ll get into that in a bit.Let’s dig into more about the top sports in Finland and put the Finnish sports on the map.
As you can imagine, ice hockey is the most popular sport in Finland based on the number of people who watch it in person and on television.There are five major leagues for men’s hockey and three major leagues for women’s hockey.Here are the men’s leagues:
Liiga – top men’s major league in Finland
Mestis – second-tier men’s major league
Suomi-sarja – third-tier men’s major league
The bottom two tiers are regional, called II-divisioona and III-divisioona
Here are the women’s leagues. For reference, “naisten” is the Finnish word for “women.”
Naisten Liiga – top women’s major league
Naisten Mestis – second-tier major league
Naisten Suomi-sarja – third-tier major league
One might think that with a population of only 5.5 million people, the betting industry would be equally small. One would be wrong. The betting industry in Finland is huge and growing, especially with the boom of many online sports betting sites Finland started experiencing recently. This only supports the fact that Finland is a country of huge sports fans.
As a member of FIFA for 114 years, Finland is obviously a nation that likes its football. Actually, Finland was technically a part of the Russian Empire in 1907 when it joined FIFA, so its football fandom is older than the nation itself.Even though ice hockey is far more popular as a spectator sport, football connects Finland with the rest of Europe and the world.Within the country, the Veikkausliiga is the highest division for men’s football in Finland. Veikkaus, appropriately enough, is the Finnish national betting agency. Don’t confuse that with a regulator – betting in Finland is owned by Veikkaus in a monopoly. However, the revenues are taken in for good causes. For instance, 53% of the profits go to the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, 43% goes to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and 4% goes to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.Back to sports! The Veikkausliiga comprises 12 professional teams based in the largest cities, with Helsinki being represented by two teams.As you can imagine, it’s terribly difficult to run a typical August through May schedule in a country where it is below freezing for most of that season. For this reason, the football season in Finland runs from April to October.Even though Veikkausliiga is the top tier, there are seven other tiers of professional-level football.
Formula One Racing
Driving in Finland is extremely difficult. Between the extreme weather and some truly mind-bending roads, you have to pass a far more rigorous series of tests in order to obtain a driving license in Finland compared with the UK.Because of the challenging roads, Formula 1 is another extremely popular sport in Finland since most of the drivers understand and appreciate the complexities of car control.There have been nine Finnish Formula 1 drivers from Finland. The first world champion from Finland was Keke Rosberg, but one of the best-known and most-successful Finnish Formula 1 champions was Mika Häkkinen.Kimi Räikkönen is currently active and is the longest-running Formula 1 driver from Finland, though he’s swapped teams a few times. He also has the 2007 Formula 1 championship to his name.While there are no current Formula 1 races held at circuits in Finland, the KymiRing in Tillola opened in 2019 and is the first circuit in Finland to obtain an FIA Grade One license. It’s entirely possible that future F1 seasons might include Finland and raise the sport’s popularity even higher.
For those unsure about what floorball is, it’s best described as hockey played on a rink of polished wood.The Finnish Floorball Federation has managed floorball in Finland since 1985 and currently includes over 39,000 licensed players. This makes it the third most popular sport in Finland after ice hockey and football.The top-tier professional league is F-liiga, which includes 14 professional floorball teams. The season is played in a round robin format, and each team will meet twice to compete. This is followed by playoffs between 8 teams and then the finals.Finland also competes in the World Floorball Championship (WFC) as a member of the International Floorball Federation. Finland has the most recent win and carries four titles since the creation of the WFC in 1996.
Once it gets too cold, the obvious choice for sports fans in Finland is to focus on ski sports. When the snows start to roll in, spectators follow to watch everything from cross-country skiing to ski jumping.Finns are always looking forward to the Winter Olympics as well so they can bring the best they have to offer. Speaking of cross-country skiing, Finland has taken 21 gold medals in cross-country skiing since joining the Olympics in 1908.Ski sports also provide Finland with strong tourism industry, bringing in skiing enthusiasts from all over the world. Some studies show about 8% of Finland’s GDP comes from around 6 million tourists per year.
People in Finland are enormous sports fans. Even though there are only 5.5 million people in Finland, many of them are athletic and participate in several sports, some of them in multiple professional leagues.Not only that but there is a word that could be simply described as a mindset that has become central to Finnish character – it is called “Sisu.” Even though it doesn’t directly translate, Sisu is essentially a force of will, a relentless need to succeed in the face of any adversity. This mindset is what drives Finns to compete in athletics and succeed despite the extreme weather and landscape.