Rodolphe Seeldrayers

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Rodolphe Seeldrayers
Rodolphe Seeldrayers.jpg
4th President of FIFA
In office
1954–1955
Preceded by Jules Rimet
Succeeded by Arthur Drewry
Personal details
Born Rodolphe William Seeldrayers
(1876-12-16)December 16, 1876
Brussels, Belgium
Died October 7, 1955(1955-10-07) (aged 78)
Brussels, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Occupation Sports journalist

Rodolphe William Seeldrayers (December 16, 1876 – October 7, 1955) was the 4th President of FIFA, serving from 1954 to 1955. He was actively involved in the official associations of Belgian sports.

Body[edit]

Eight fields of Belgian sports have benefited from Seeldrayers' attentions: athletics, football, aviation, cricket, field hockey, golf and, in a small measure, tennis and swimming — eight different sports in which he was involved — athletics and football being without any doubt his predilection. To begin with, he was the Belgian champion of the 110-meter hurdles in 1897, and he competed for ten years; secondly, he was the Belgian Division of honor champion with the Racing-Club of Brussels' team in 1900, and captain of the university team of Brussels in 1898 and 1899. All in all, he competed for 26 years.

As for other fields, their practice lasted an average of ten years and always at an elevated level of accomplishment, winning at least a championship: he had five years in the Regatta Club (Cercle des régates) of Brussels and the "Sunburn" team (Coup de Soleil), ten years of cricket in le Racing and the "Ango-Belgian Club" of Brussels, and was its three time champion of Belgium. He was captain, in 1924, of the national team which defeated France in Paris, ten years of hockey in the Racing-Club of Brussels, and in 1903, in the national team against France, in Paris; golf from 1919 onwards in the Waterloo Golf Club where he was captain for ten years.

Seeldrayers was a very accomplished sportsman, and as can be seen from the many sports in which he competed, he had preference for team sports, which agreed with his conception of sports, since, according to Seeldrayers, sports must be the playing-field of an apprenticeship in the necessary values of life and community.

Spirit[edit]

Born in 1876 in Düsseldorf, Germany, R.W. Seeldrayers studied law at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels), where he began his sporting activities. At 19, he was one of the founders of the Union royale belge des Sociétés de football association (URBSFA), or Royal Belgian Union of the Football Association Societies, of which he was the treasurer for four years and the Executive Counsel for 25 years. He was later elected member of honor. In 1914, the Union used his talents as an orator and named him delegate to FIFA, of which he was made Vice-President in 1927.

In 1899, Seeldrayers began a career as a sports journalist with the magazine "La vie sportive", (Sporting life), writing a column under the pen name Spectator. Ten years later, he founded the National Committee for Physical Education which merged with the Belgian Olympic Committee. He became head of the committee beginning in 1946, succeeding Prince Albert de Ligne.

In 1920, he was Technical Secretary of the Olympic Games at Anvers, and would be a member of the appeals jury for football at the Olympic games several times, most notably at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, where an incident during the Peru v Austria game provoked an appeals jury consultation. During the match spectators invaded the pitch. The Austrian Football Association sent a complaint to the appeals committee which decided, after deliberation, to re-play the match "behind closed doors." Peru disagreed and their entire Olympic squad left the Games complaining of the 'crafty Berlin decision'. He also received the official Czechoslovak complaint following the abandoned 1920 Olympic Final which had been refereed by John Lewis.

Inveterate founder of clubs and associations, the following organizations are to Seeldrayers' credit: the Waterloo Golf-Club (1923), the Ixelles Football Club (which would be part of the merger with the Racing Club of Brussels) and the Anglo-Belgian Cricket Sporting Club. Selldrayers seemed to be well received in English circles: up-to-date and to the point in matters of sport, he furthermore had perfectly mastered the English language. At the same time, Seeldrayers continued his journalistic activities and began a new collaboration with the publication "Sports Echo" (L'Écho des Sports), but it would end this aspect of his activities in 1935, while still continuing to publish articles and to make his opinions known in the columns of the Bulletins of the International Olympic Committee.

The Second World War slowed down his activities somewhat without stopping them: as a member of the Belgian Olympic Committee during the Occupation, he stood up for the independence of Belgian sport. At the end of the War, he was one of the members of the International Olympic Committee for the first post-war Games, in 1946.

At the beginning of 1955, the universally respected Frenchman Jules Rimet resigned from FIFA and passed his authority to his Vice-President, R. W. Seeldrayers. This handing down of power, as well as the matches of the World Cup of 1954 were shown on television for the first time. A great mutual respect existed between the two men, which translated, on the part of the Belgian, into a motion introduced on July 25, 1946 at a FIFA congress, to change the name of the World Cup to the "Jules Rimet Cup." Under his Presidency, the Federation counted 85 members and celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

For many years, the question of amateurism posed a problem. With the development of the sport, the phenomenon of professionalism began to bring into question the fundamentals of the conception of the Olympic Games as P. de Coubertin wanted them to be. Debates raged, and a Commission on Amateurism was created, supported by the International Olympic Committee. Seeldrayers took part in it. In the end, the commission submitted its final report in 1947, at the session in Stockholm. It included, among other things, a definition of amateurism, and required future participants in the Olympic Games to sign a declaration affirming that they were truly amateurs, and proposing the creation of a permanent commission, composed of three members of the International Olympic Committee and a delegate of each international federation. But the problem was not much forgotten.

Under his Presidency of FIFA, Seeldrayers faced another problem: FIFA was in fact reproached for having given permission for "false" amateurs to participate in a Helsinki tournament, even though a definition of amateurism had been introduced in the FIFA bylaws by Seeldrayers himself, Vice President of the federation at the time. The problem is complex, with the decision of which games will participate in majors sports events at stake. It was also a time when regimes used sports as a means of propaganda.

Aware of the importance of this problem, Seeldrayers remained faithful to his view of sport. For him, "from a point of view strictly Olympic, sport is only possible, theoretically, when practiced by amateurs." His opinion didn't prevent him from respecting professional players who followed the spirit of the game with loyalty, sincerity, and fair-play. And even though he clearly saw the use of sports in communist propaganda, he understood and approved that phenomenon to a certain extent. In his opinion, sports were a key element of social organization. They must be integrated to the school curriculum on the same level that any other subject and are capital to youths' education.

Seeldrayers considered the spectators as flawed, and over time, his opinion didn't improve. He believed that it was the duty of the press to teach the spectator.

R.W. Seeldrayers died a year after his election as president of FIFA, on October 7, 1955 due to illness. He received semi-official funerals following a governmental decision. He was posthumously elected as member of the IOC (International Olympic Committee). It was then decided that this title would not be given posthumously again.