Building Europe with the Ball

Turning Points in the Europeanization of Football, 1905–1995

by Philippe Vonnard (Volume editor) Grégory Quin (Volume editor) Nicolas Bancel (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection VI, 243 Pages
Series: Sport, History and Culture, Volume 7


Since 1990, football history has become increasingly important within the field of sport science, yet few studies have centred on the Europeanization of the game from the interwar period onwards. This period saw the creation of a sovereign institution dedicated to European football, the establishment of specific rules about players’ transfers and contracts and, in particular, the development of competitions.
This book examines the development of European football between 1905 and 1995 from a transnational perspective. It offers a space for discussion to both early-career and established historians from a range of different countries, leading to a better understanding of the crucial turning points in the Europeanization of the game. The volume aims to promote valuable new reflections on the role of football in the European integration process.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Nicolas Bancel, Grégory Quin and Philippe Vonnard: Introduction: Studying the Europeanization of Football in Historical Perspective
  • Part I The First Europeanization: A Pre-European Football Sphere (1910s to the 1940s)
  • Paul Dietschy: 1 Football during the Belle Époque: The First ‘Europe of football’ (1903–1914)
  • Grégory Quin: 2 Central Europe Rules European Football: The ‘Golden Age’ of Regional Connections in European Football (1926–1938)
  • Matthew Taylor: 3 English Football and ‘the Continent’ Reconsidered (1919–1960)
  • Part II The Second Europeanization: A European Turning Point (1930s to the 1960s)
  • Nicola Sbetti: 4 The Quest for Legitimacy: The Road to Redemption for Italian Football in Europe after the Second World War (1943–1949)
  • Xavier Breuil: 5 Football and the Construction of a European Area in the East: Ruptures and Continuities after 1945
  • Kevin Tallec Marston: 6 ‘Sincere Camaraderie’: Professionalization, Politics and the Pursuit of the European Idea at the International Youth Tournament (1948–1957)
  • Part III The Third Europeanization: The New Stakes of European Football (1950s to the 1990s)
  • Philippe Vonnard: 7 How did UEFA Govern the European Turning Point in Football? UEFA, the European Champion Clubs’ Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Projects (1954–1959)
  • Manuel Schotté: 8 ‘To live well is to live concealed’: Confined Relations between UEFA and the European Community in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Jérôme Berthoud and Stanislas Frenkiel: 9 The African Turning Point in European Football: Immigration Experiences of Cameroonian and Algerian Footballers in France during the 1980s
  • Yohan Ariffin: Afterword. Sport and Global Politics: Still an Unchartered Territory?
  • Bibliography
  • List of Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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We would like to thank Etty Payne and Shani D’Cruze for their quick translations, comments and corrections. We also thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS), the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lausanne and the Institute for Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) for their financial support.

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Introduction: Studying the Europeanization of Football in Historical Perspective

In April 2005, UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations), the governing body of European football, presented a project called ‘Vision of Europe’, which proposed a strategy for the ‘direction and development of European football over the next decade’.1 At the same moment, in the field of sport history, the focus on Europe became increasingly important. Despite a number of earlier published volumes on the professionalization of football, the development of its institutions and its mediatization, this was the beginning of a new era, since most previously conducted research had been carried out within a national framework, and even edited collections for the most part assembled groups of national studies.2 In the meantime, the development of cultural, global and postcolonial history helped to broaden analytical frameworks and opened new perspectives for football historians, especially promoting projects on global exchanges in sport.3

The idea was not to exclude the national perspective, but to enlarge it.4 In this sense, research soon focused on the role of sports organizations5 and the networks that exist between international sports leaders.6 Researchers also tried to revisit specific historical periods such as the Cold War, when sports fields were not only places of confrontation7 but also sometimes areas of exchange.8 Through those works, even though they were not fully focused on a continental framework,9 historians have opened some new perspectives, notably to ask how sports became more ‘European’.10 One of the principal aims of the 2011 volume edited by Alan Tomlinson, Christopher Young and Richard Holt was, for instance, to offer precious material to help understand the transformation of European sport during the second part of the twentieth century.11 However, this collection was not focused only on one sport, or on a single theme (organizations, mega events, etc.), ← 1 | 2 → so it could not fully explain the development process of a ‘European’ sports field. Nevertheless, it created new perspectives, particularly by genuinely considering the role of sport in the integration process. Following this trend, the recent publication on the European history of basketball in Peter Lang’s Euroclio series – which focused specifically on the history of European integration of the sport12 – constituted an important step towards taking processes of Europeanization more seriously in sports history.

Football studies in a historical perspective: A brief state of the art

From 2008 to 2009, researchers specializing in football also joined this trend. In fact, football is by far the most studied sport, partly because it is popular everywhere on the continent even where it is not the ‘national sport’, but also because it had already become widespread from Lisbon to Berlin by around 1900. Thus, we know now that the first football promoters, such as Walther Bensemann, were truly cosmopolitans ‘moving with the ball’ between 1890 and 1910.13 Paul Dietschy has recently asked if ‘a “Europe of football” [did] exist in the 1930s’.14 Although he did not give a definitive answer to his question, he outlined an interesting panorama that helps us understand the tension between regional and continental connections during this period. In fact, though strong continental connections did exist at that time,15 notably around FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), regional connections were probably still the most important football events. More precisely, different scales operated concurrently: regional, national, super-regional and continental.

In the last decade there has been much published on the development of European football in the first part of the twentieth century, not least by Dietschy himself. In his Histoire du football (2010), he put down some significant milestones for a better understanding of how a European football emerged in the interwar period, though other researchers such as Laurent Barcelo,16 Jürgen Mittag17 and Antoine Maumon de Longevialle18 had laid ← 2 | 3 → the groundwork in this regard. These studies outlined some key elements in the existence of a genuinely ‘European’ football and also started to open up new perspectives on what then happened during the 1950s and 1960s, with the creation of UEFA and a range of new European competitions.

Important progress was made through the FREE project (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) from 2011 to 2015. This was the first time that a major research programme had been dedicated to European football, based on an interdisciplinary understanding of the game and funded by the European Union. One of the key investigators was Albrecht Sonntag, who had called for more European studies in football three years earlier.19 The historical element was discussed in all of the eight events during FREE but was particularly in the centre of the pitch during the congresses held in Besançon (September 2012) and Stuttgart (February 2013), respectively, which focused on European competitions (super-regional and continental) and transnational actors (players and leaders) as well as on European networks/organizations (such as FIFA and UEFA) and the European cultural memory of the game.

In parallel, some young researchers – several of whom took part in the FREE project – tried to focus their research more on the European framework and notably on the period from the 1930s to the 1970s. Fabien Archambault analysed the development of European football during the 1950s,20 while Grégory Quin has researched the strong connections established between football leaders from 1904 to 1954, especially around FIFA.21 More recently through his work on youth football, Kevin Marston has established new standpoints around football leaders’ views and more especially around the creation of a European Youth Tournament.22 In addition, Philippe Vonnard focused on the creation of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup in the middle of the 1950s.23

On the basis of this brief and inexhaustive survey of the field, we suggest that a Europeanization process was underway from the first moments of the game’s establishment. First used in the political sciences from the 1990s24 and more recently in the domain of history,25 Europeanization can be defined as ‘the process of change in [the] domestic arena, in terms of policy substance and instruments, process and politics as well as polity and institutions resulting from European integration or the European level ← 3 | 4 → of governance more generally’.26 If both political scientists and historians agreed in regarding Europeanization as ‘a gradual political, economic, cultural and social process of convergence, leading towards an increasingly similar development of European societies’,27 historians propose to ‘focus mainly on the emergence of European institutions and their growing influence on domestic politics’. European integration, it has been argued, ‘was less referred to as a cause than as a result of Europeanization – which, admittedly, could henceforth be the starting point for a huge variety of successive evolutions’.28

In football studies, the concept was first used by sociologists and political scientists,29 and especially by Alexander Brand and Arne Niemann.30 Their studies have established some key points. First, they have suggested that Europeanization is a work in progress and known resistances can explain differences between countries. Secondly, they have also pointed out the crucial difference between ‘UEFA-ization’, in other words the consequence of UEFA’s decisions on European football, and Europeanization, a broader process that involves the creation – beyond political regimes – of a relative homogeneity between continental countries in different domains. Thirdly, as also indicated by William Gasparini,31 they have indicated that it is a two-way process divided in two complementary perspectives: bottom-up and top-down.

In 2011, a collection entitled The Europeanization of Football, edited by Borja Garcia, Arne Niemann and Wyn Grant went further still in its conclusions.32 The aim of this book was to show how football became more European, but its core was built around a very recent history of football. Although it is crucial to understand what happened in this period, the short-term perspective limited the broader understanding of European processes. For example, the idea of an important European championship for clubs was not new in the 1990s; in fact the idea had been in the air for a long time. So, what conditions made it possible to realize the project in the 1990s?

This question could in fact be directed at the work of all of these researchers. Although they insist on the idea of a long-term perspective, history is used as an introduction to analysis of contemporary issues rather than as having explanatory value in its own right. For example, Alexander Brand, ← 4 | 5 → Arne Niemann and Georg Spitaler indicated in a 2010 publication33 that Austria first encountered Europeanization in the interwar period through taking part in competitions like the Mitropa Cup and the International Cup. They then immediately moved on to address changes that happened in the mid-1990s. They remained silent about the crucial period between the 1940s and 1990s, when European competitions and UEFA itself were both established and developed. Moreover, they explained the individuality of Austria and Germany’s patterns of Europeanization through differences in their national footballing cultures. While they were correct that Germany did not participate in the Central European competitions in the 1930s, their vision remains narrow; in fact Germany was probably one of the major actors in European football in the 1930s and 1940s, in regard to both the number of matches played by their national team and their contribution to FIFA’s budget. Moreover, its main leaders, such as Ivo Schricker, Peco Bauwens and Felix Linnemann, played a major role in the development of European football and particularly in the organization of FIFA.34

Thus, in our view, it is important to consider Europeanization historically, over the longer term and also to enlarge the concept to take into account all its dimensions on the football field: its competitions; its continental organizations; the networks built between football leaders; and its connexions with the political field, both national and continental. Furthermore, if an important change did happen during the 1990s,35 we do not want to underestimate other turning points since the very beginning of the twentieth century, all of which were decisive for the establishment of a genuinely ‘European’ football.

Firstly, based on the conclusions of Jürgen Mittag and Benjamin Legrand in their 2010 article,36 we think that a broad comprehension of long-term history could help demonstrate the strengths of continental football and explain the persistence of football exchanges across the seismic political and social shifts of the twentieth century. Secondly, we want to deepen comparison between the Europeanization of football and what happened in other spheres. In fact, this type of approach can help reveal the persistent and specific European development of football and finally permit a full understanding of the importance of the game for the European integration process. ← 5 | 6 →

Enlarging the frame and renewing the perspective

Taking into account the current literature and in order to create discussions between both young and more experienced researchers, a conference entitled ‘Playing to Build Europe: The Formation of a European Football Space, 1919–91’ was held in Lausanne in February 2015. The event was organized at the University of Lausanne by the Institute of Sport Science (ISSUL) and Institute of International Studies in History and Politics (IHEIPI), in collaboration with two institutes specializing in the history and sociology of sport: the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) at De Montfort University and the Institut für Europäische Sportentwicklung und Freizeitforschung (IESF) at the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Cologne.

Our aim through this conference was first to allow for the development of a better understanding of what happened in European football from the interwar period to the 1980s, and particularly during the second part of the twentieth century – a period which is still under-researched. In fact, from the 1950s to the 1990s, football seemed to engage in new steps around the creation of UEFA. Since its very beginning, UEFA could be considered as a bridge between eastern and western countries, then divided by the Cold War. Of course, the super-regional connections did not disappear. New competitions such as the Alpine Cup were created and former tournaments like the Mitropa Cup and Balkan Cup were reorganized. Opposition was overcome, as when the British associations, Germany and Italy rejected the idea of a European cup for nations, but the new tempo of European exchanges continued and their regular and extended basis offered an image of a continent unified by football.

A second goal sought by the organizers was to continue the European development of football within the European integration process, and more generally with the change in European society across the century. It is of course a truism that it is not possible to understand the developments of these exchanges in football without keeping in mind that they were influenced by the development of travel, an increase in the use of the game by states (as a tool of ‘soft power’),37 the importance of media coverage and also by the connections – direct or indirect38 – between football actors ← 6 | 7 → and other European organizations. This use of historical context, however, helps us not only to understand the possibility of the development of the game, but also to situate football in the European integration process that touched several fields (economic, politic, cultural, scientific, technical and sports). Here, the démarche was inspired by the approach developed by Aaron Beacom at the beginning of the current century,39 then followed by authors like Stuart Murray and Geoffrey Allen Pigman.40 Their aim was to better integrate perspectives of international relations within sport studies. A good example of this perspective is to compare the architecture of UEFA with the other European organizations created during the same period. In fact, UEFA was probably one of the rare European organizations composed of both eastern and western countries.41 Assumptions about any uniformity in the European integration process must therefore be carefully re-examined42 given the particularity of the sports field, as the French historian Robert Frank has pointed out.43 This ‘relative autonomy’44 needs to be better understood because it delineates the importance of football to the European integration process, notably by maintaining exchanges between East and West during the Cold War.

Stimulated by the proposal made by Roland Robertson and Richard Giulianotti to elaborate phases in the development of the world game45 from an empirical point of view, five periods of Europeanization of the game may briefly be distinguished.

The first period extends from 1890 to 1920, as historians have already indicated,46 following the diffusion and establishment of the game to all the corners of the continent. The initiation of national associations and the first European exchanges between them, notably within FIFA (created in 1904), meant that structures could be created that facilitated this European scale of the game, particularly during the First World War, a time of important cultural exchange.

The second period, from 1910 to the beginning of the 1940s, saw football become a popular and professional practice. At the same time, national associations developed themselves, acquiring permanent secretaries and more stable organizations, alongside the creation of true ‘traditions’ of football exchanges, notably led by regional competitions. Moreover, the interwar period saw football first used in the political sphere as a tool for ← 7 | 8 → diplomacy and the promotion of politics, by democracies and totalitarian regimes alike.47


VI, 243
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (June)
Football history Sport science European football Europeanization of the games
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. VIII, 242 pp.

Biographical notes

Philippe Vonnard (Volume editor) Grégory Quin (Volume editor) Nicolas Bancel (Volume editor)

Philippe Vonnard is a PhD student at the Institute of Sport Sciences at the University of Lausanne. He has published several articles about the development of European football from the 1920s to the 1970s. Grégory Quin is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Sport Sciences at the University of Lausanne. He has published many articles on Swiss and European sports history and has been awarded a UEFA Research Grant to support his work. Nicolas Bancel is Professor of Sport History and Director of the Institute of Sport Sciences at the University of Lausanne. He is a specialist in postcolonial and transnational approaches to sport and is the author of several books and many articles.


Title: Building Europe with the Ball
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