Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Tue 21 August 2007

All the Presidential Men (Part 2)

Continuing our look at the Presidents of FIFA from 1904 to the present day.

Part 2: An Englishman in charge
Under the leadership of Frenchman Robert Guerin, FIFA began life in 1904 as the world governing body of Football. Its raison d'être was to ensure that the game be played in a uniform way around the world in accordance with the standards it laid down.

Key to making this happen was getting as many football associations around the world affiliated to FIFA as possible, and this was something that Guerin had enjoyed some success with during his time as President. When Guerin was replaced by Englishman Daniel Burley Woolfall in 1906, however, FIFA still only consisted of European member nations. To develop the game of football around the world, Woolfall would need to persuade other continents to sign up, and top of the list were North America and South America.

Aside from the ensuing recruitment campaign which he initiated, Woolfall also had other pressing matters to deal with, namely the confirmation of a fixed set of rules under which football would be played around the world. His background, working on the Administration Board for the English Football Association, stood him in good stead and so it came as no surprise when the Laws of the Game were put in place during the early years of his tenure.

In 1908, Woolfall assumed responsibility for organising the football tournament of the 4th Olympic Games in London. FIFA's aim of creating a world championship was slow to materialise and in the first two decades of the 20th Century the Olympics were the only place where international competition could be seen. That said, only five countries took part in 1908, all of them from Europe, but this was not its main point of notoriety.

In direct contrast to FIFA's own principles, Woolfall gave the go-ahead for professional players to enter the Olympic tournament which, for the greater part of its history, has been the bastion of amateur competitors only. Given the development of football around the world at the time, few would have raised an eyebrow when Great Britain won the gold medal after a 2-0 win over Denmark in the Final.

FIFA were to benefit from the leadership of Daniel Burley Woolfall for twelve long years and during that time its membership doubled. Football at last started to embrace more distant backwaters as countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Chile and the United States enlisted. At last progress was seen to be made, but tragedy loomed around the corner.

In 1914, the First World War began and although some international football matches still took place in neutral territories, the sport was naturally overshadowed by the conflict going on all around. Many players were sent away to take part in battle and FIFA's Congress struggled to convene as members found it almost impossible to travel from country to country.

FIFA's dream of uniting all nations lay in tatters and in 1918 it also found itself without a President. Daniel Burley Woolfall, the man from Blackburn who had built such a strong foundation for the sport around the world, died aged 66. Uncertain times lay ahead and when the First World War ended, FIFA looked towards a new President who could carry on the good work carried out by Woolfall. Little did they know his replacement would go on to be a legend in the sport for many decades to come...

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