Jules Rimet: FIFA’s Missionary President
Football representatives such as Jules Rimet can surely be compared to senior civil servants, administrators and statesmen, in that their work is not directly linked to political changes and their actions extend over long periods of time. Through his long-term commitment to the world of sport, Jules Rimet became a ‘senior sports administrator’. It is largely due to Jules Rimet’s work over more than three decades between the early 1920s and the mid-1950s that football is currently the world’s most popular sport and the World Cup the greatest international sporting event. Although no single individual, even if he is the most powerful man of his time, can be considered a lone actor, and although his actions have to be considered within a larger project, Jules Rimet was undoubtedly the most important figure in international football during the first half of the twentieth century. As the elected president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) from 1921 to 1954 it was under Rimet’s leadership that the game first became truly global, that a professional elite developed and that the first World Cups were held. Rimet also played a major role in securing FIFA’s autonomy from supervision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In this contribution, our ambition is to highlight several aspects of Rimet’s career, considering him as a true football entrepreneur, and to fill some of the gaps in his historiography, which remains either simply narrative or only hagiographic. Thus, our analyses are based on a large number of documents, mainly from FIFA (congresses, executive committee minutes, correspondence), but also from the Association Suisse de Football (ASF), the Fédération Française de Football Association (FFFA) and the Football Association (FA). Because football archives for the interwar period are incomplete, we also searched the archives of several newspapers in France, Switzerland and Germany. Finally, we also consulted the French Légion d’Honneur’s personal file on Jules Rimet, which is available online.
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