Ivo Schricker

Football's Pioneers: Ivo Schricker

From De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture, Dr. Neil Carter recalls Ivo Schricker, who was a major figure in laying the foundations of FIFA.

In November 1931, Schricker (1877-1962) was appointed FIFA General Secretary. He was its first paid official and it signalled an important moment in FIFA’s modernisation. 

Schricker was born in Strasbourg, then part of the German Empire, following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. He played for his hometown club, Strassburger FV, and then for Karlsruher FV when he and his brother moved there as students. 

He then played for three Swiss clubs including FC Basel. In 1898 he had played in Paris for a German representative side against French and English teams. Between 1923 and 1925 he was the president of the South German FA, and by 1928 was a FIFA Vice-President. 

Schricker’s predecessor, a Dutch banker, Cornelis Hirschmann had held the honorary position of secretary-treasurer, but he went bankrupt during the Depression, and FIFA itself suffered major financial losses due to speculation by Hirschmann.

Schricker was an ideal person for the job. A polyglot, he was a German speaker who spoke perfect French and English, and also wrote Spanish; skills which enabled him to appease FIFA’s growing factions. 

In particular, the South American associations had felt marginalised within a European-dominated FIFA. Even his language skills had their limits, however. When the USSR joined FIFA Iin 1948, its representatives insisted on writing all their letters in Russian when FIFA’s official languages were English, French, German and Spanish. 

FIFA’s costs doubled in the period 1931 to 1934 due to the employment of Schricker and his assistant, Herr Rijnink, and the rent for two offices on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, where it established its headquarters.

As a result, in his early years Schricker’s main job was to remind national associations to pay their annual membership fees and to pass on FIFA’s share of gate receipts from international matches. Yet matters were improving in this respect. In 1934 there were 73 international games, rising to 106 a year later, while by 1939 FIFA’s membership had increased to 55. 

By 1939, FIFA was on a more secure footing, but World War Two would again leave it teetering. During the war, Schricker remained in neutral Switzerland. His hostility to Nazism ensured that FIFA also remained neutral, despite frequent petitioning by Germany’s representative, Peter Bauwens, who had close business links with the Reich, to bring FIFA under Nazi control.

Schricker stepped down in 1951. During his tenure, he had set the financial and administrative foundations for FIFA, leaving it much better placed to cater for an increasingly global game. 

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