The Leaguers: The Making of Professional Football in England, 1900-1939

By Matthew Taylor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Away from Home:
The League and
International Football

Although the Football League defined itself from the beginning as a selfcontained, inward-looking and 'a frankly selfish organisation',1 its very success spawned imitators in other countries and necessitated the development of international relationships. Before 1914 these were generally restricted to the home countries of Britain, especially Scotland and Ireland, whose leagues were both established in 1890. In the inter-war period, however, the growing international popularity of the game led to the creation of regional and national competitions based on the league model throughout Europe, South and North America. The influence of English (as well as Scottish) teams, players and coaches was undoubtedly central to these developments. Nevertheless, the English football authorities themselves have been portrayed as aloof and marginal in this respect, paying little attention to the continental game and establishing only intermittent contact with international bodies. In his history of British football, James Walvin described the years from 1915 to 1939 as the era of 'the insular game'.2 The Football League, in many ways, exemplified this insularity. While it developed a formal dialogue, as well as administrative links, with other British associations and leagues, it made no such contacts outside Britain and did little to encourage its members to do so. The Management Committee tended to regard international football as an irrelevance at best, and to perceive non-British clubs and associations in the first instance as rivals rather than friends, posing a potential threat to the League and its players.

This chapter is not concerned solely with the Football League's international relations at a formal, administrative level. In the context of the FA's self-imposed exclusion from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) before 1905, between 1919 and 1924 and then again from 1928 until the Second World War, Football League clubs

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