Hungary's history of Congress

When FIFA’s member associations gather in Budapest for this week's 62nd FIFA Congress, they will find themselves in a city which has already played host to the annual gathering on two previous occasions, both of which gave rise to particularly vigorous discussions.

While the 1909 Congress (featured in our Archive page in the June/July 2009 edition of FIFA World) involved something of an existential crisis – with the five-year-old federation and its 11 members facing an early challenge to its authority from rival organisation UIAFA – the 1930 gathering (shown in this month’s photo) was dominated by a more internal form of power play.

The 1930 Congress came at an historic time for FIFA, with just over five weeks to go until the staging of what would be the first-ever FIFA World Cup™. Unaware back then of the huge success story that the competition would eventually become, the Congress delegates criticised the Executive Committee’s preparations for the event, which was known at the time as the “World’s championship”.

Taking place at a time of increasing political tension across Europe, the meeting also saw several members criticising the FIFA Executive Committee for a supposed lack of initiative or urgency. Italian representative Dr Giovanni Mauro even went as far as to suggest that Uruguay would have been better served if a dictator had been in charge of the Executive Committee.

FIFA Vice-President Rodolphe W. Seeldrayers, the Belgian who in 1954 would go on to become the fourth FIFA President, firmly rejected the vagueness of the accusations, however, and declared emphatically that there was no possibility of FIFA being run as a dictatorship.

Responding to claims that Uruguay would struggle to stage the inaugural tournament, Seeldrayers reminded the European critics that the South Americans had been chosen as hosts by the Congress itself one year earlier, and insisted that the Executive Committee would do everything in its power to ensure the success of the competition.

Vital issues discussed
Several other ongoing matters were discussed by the Congress, including the delegates’ desire to find a way of bringing the British associations back into FIFA. Seeldrayers told the gathering that a “project of agreement” had been submitted on this subject (though it would in fact take another 16 years until the British associations returned to the fold).

In an early discussion on international transfer regulations, the member associations rejected a proposal by the United States to relax the law governing the transfer of amateur players between associations, in order to protect them against “sham-amateurism”, while it was decided that a professional player could only transfer between associations when his contract had terminated.

The members also used this second Budapest gathering to discuss the proposals its delegates would make at the following week’s International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting and backed the admittance of substitutes for injured players in international matches in order to increase interest for spectators.

This proposal was rejected at the IFAB meeting, however, and it was not for another 38 years – with the start of qualifying for the 1970 FIFA World Cup – that substitutes were officially permitted in FIFA competitions.

Among the interested “spectators” following these discussions of football politics were the wives of the FIFA delegates, who were allowed to attend the Congress for the first time. As the picture shows, these “first ladies” of football also lent a feminine touch to the customary group photo taken prior to the Congress dinner.