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Inaugural European Cup 1955-56

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The story I've heard is that Chelsea didn't compete in the inaugural season of the European Cup because the league and its autocratic and bloody-minded boss, Alan Hardaker, refused to sanction the club's participation even though Joe Mears wanted to do so. Hardaker pulled a similar stunt with us the following season and, as many in the red half of Manchester will tell you, Hardaker's intransigence and threats was one reason why we tried to hurry back from Belgrade to play Wolves on the Saturday.

Can anyone fill in the back story about Chelsea's withdrawal? There's bits and bobs on the net but I'm sure someone on here has more details.

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Stretford:This article below seems to give the info you're looking for .


How the FA stopped Chelsea entering the European Cup

  • 3 years ago

Stamford Bridge once again will host European football tonight when they welcome first timers Qarabag.

But it wasn’t so long ago when Chelsea themselves were the first timers, featuring in their first Champions League season in 1999/00.

However, this would not have been the case when the Blues were invited to enter the equivalent the European Champions League at the time, the European Cup, in the 1955 season, after winning Division One the season before.

Chelsea even went as far as being placed in the draw and were scheduled to face Swedish side Djurgardens.

Chelsea manager Ted Drake had achieved high levels winning the league with Chelsea, and the club who was chaired at the time by Joe Mears were keen to compete at the highest level.

But unfortunately for the Blues, the then Football Association, which was a league committee, took a vote and vetoed Chelsea participating in the competition.

Alan Hardaker, the secretary of the Football League at the time, thought that Chelsea should not play in the competition ‘for fear of fixture congestion and a loss of prestige for his own competition’, as quoted by Chelsea historian Rick Glanvill (full article below).

During the early days of football, the English authorities were reluctant to join in with International competitions. In fact, they didn’t even enter England in the World Cup until 1950, refusing to compete in the first three.

Following a committee meeting, the decision was made that Chelsea should not enter the European Cup, essentially withdrawing them from the competition with immediate effect. Mears was, of course, part of this committee but was powerless to contest the decision.

Hardaker was quoted as saying that the committee saw the European Cup as ‘something of a joke’ and ‘at best, a nine-day wonder’, according to Rick Glanvill, writing in The Official Biography – The Definitive Story of the First 100 Years. They felt so strongly about the idea, that the decision allegedly only took a matter of minutes to be reached.

If Chelsea had been allowed to play in the competition, they would have been England’s first ever club to represent the country in the European Cup. However, it instead became Manchester United the following year. It wasn’t that the FA allowed them, they, in fact, tried to stop them as well, but United manager Sir Matt Busby decided to ignore the request and took part anyway.

Some 44 long years later, Chelsea finally competed in the competition with the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Tore Andre-Flo and Marcel Desailly managing the take them as far as the quarter-finals.

Having won it in 2012, the Blues will tonight take part in a competition that has become adored by their supporters.


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Hibernian: the club that led Britain into the European Cup

Hibernian: the club that led Britain into the European Cup

07/03/2019 by Gary Thacker


Historian Tom Wright looks at Hibernian's invovlement in The European Cup


Decent reads about the footballing authorities 'attitude' back then

The SFA were as bad, if not worse than the FA back then regarding 'footballing progress'.

Hope nobody minds me posting the articles about Hibs.  

Just thought they were relevant and give more background.

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1 hour ago, Stretford Ender said:

Thanks @erskblue. Scottish football was much stronger in those days. Look at any successful English team from the 60s on, and they all had an influential Scots presence.

Your own club has had its fair share of good Scottish players and managers.


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57 minutes ago, erskblue said:

Your own club has had its fair share of good Scottish players and managers.


Indeed. We've been blessed in that regard. Liverpool too. I remember the Scottish side that beat England at Wembley in 1967 and Jim Baxter played a blinder. It's sad to see Scottish influence on the wane. Irish too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First-ever European Cup previewed in Charles Buchan's Football ...

Juventus and Real Madrid meet in Cardiff on Saturday amid the glitz and hype of the modern-day Champions League Final – a competition so embedded in football today that it is hard to imagine a time when the tournament was a new concept for fans in Europe to get their heads around. But, a new concept it was in 1955 when the first ‘European Champions Cup’ tournament was played. And, we’re privileged to be able to see exactly how it was first received in footballing circles through this article written by Charles Buchan in Football Monthly, June 1955, as he introduced the European Cup competition to British football fans.

It was French football magazine L’Equipe that conceived the idea of a European Club tournament and teams were selected by them to participate based on being the most prestigious sides in their respective leagues – in general, therefore, the Champions. But what seemed like a good idea at the time was not so in practice. Despite discussing Chelsea’s upcoming participation in the tournament in the article, unbeknown to Buchan at the time, the Blues would be forced to withdraw from the competition by the FA who, as forward-thinking as ever, saw it as an unnecessary distraction to domestic matters. Likewise, Holland Sport, Honved and BK Copenhagen also refused to participate and were replaced by PSV Eindhoven, Vörös Lobogó and Aarhus from their respective leagues. Thus, Hibs were the sole British representative team who, despite only finishing fifth in Scottish Division One, were chosen because games were being played mid-week and Easter Road had floodlights. It’s a real eye-opener reading Buchan’s thoughts, therefore, to see just how far the European Cup has come – 62 finals later – since that very first competition. Click on individual pages to expand/peruse originals.



Charles Buchan - Editor

Charles Buchan – Editor

CHELSEA, Football League champions for the first time in their 50-year-old history, are a comparatively young side. But however boldly they carry their proud title next season, they have, in my opinion, a much greater responsibility.

They are England’s representatives in the Europe Football Cup. This is a new competition that will start early next season and will  be contested by leading clubs from Great Britain and 14 Continental countries.

In the first round, to be played between August 1 and October 31, 1955, Chelsea have been drawn against Djurgarden, the crack Swedish club. They will be all out to rub the Englishmen’s noses in the mud.

So Chelsea, just as the Wolves did last season against Russian Spartak and Hungary’s Honved, will have to battle hard to uphold England’s reputation.

The draw for the first round is : Chelsea (England) v. Djurgarden (Sweden); Real Madrid (Spain) v. Servette (Switzerland); Partizan Belgrade (Yugoslavia) v. Sporting Club (Portugal); Rotweiss Essen (Germany) v. Hibernian (Scotland); Honved (Hungary) v. Anderlecht (Belgium); Stade de Rheims (France) v. Bold Club (Denmark); Rapid de Vienna (Austria) v. Holland Sports (Holland); F.C. Milan (Italy) v . F.C. Sarrebruck (Saar).

Each round of the Cup will consist of two games, home and away. Chelsea have a chance to prove they are worthy champions. I think they will take it.

It will be a long job that will demand concentration throughout next season.

The second round will .be played between November 1 and the end of January, 1956, the semi-finals between February 1 and April 1, 1956. The date of the final has yet to be arranged.

Each game will be played in mid-week. Coming on top of the League and F.A. Cup commitments, this test will put a tremendous strain upon the Chelsea players. But I am sure they will respond gallantly.

Personally, I should have preferred the Europe Cup to be carried out at international rather than club level. I believe it would have been the spur that our National side needs.

More games with Continental international teams would keep us in touch with Continental methods and tactics and would give our England players more opportunities to blend as a team.

Youngsters like Duncan Edwards, Ron Flowers, Frank Blunstone, Reg Matthews and Trevor Smith – possible internationals for years to come – would mature all the more quickly by facing such strong opposition and developing ways and means to beat it.

England needs all the extra practice and experience possible before the next World Cup in three years, time.

Most of England’s young players are bewildered by Continental tactics such as obstruction, when they play abroad. The more they get used to it, the better they will play.

But to get back to the Europe Cup. There is one point about which will need careful consideration by the authorities – refereeing.

Unless strong officials, like B. M. Griffiths, A. E. Ellis and Reg Leafe (who controlled the F.A. Cup Final so competently), and Mr. Orlandini of Italy, are in charge of the various ties, there is the danger of them getting out of hand.

<rest of article from CB June 1955>

Video of first European Cup Final 1956 – Real Madrid v Stade Reims:



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