‘Who needs Sepp Blatter anyway?’ The biggest story in the world of sport rages on, with the almost daily challenge to the controversial FIFA president. But a Lincolnshire woman in her 80s today reveals how different it was in a bygone era when her strict father, Arthur Drewry, held the unpaid post for six years until his death in 1961. He was in charge at a time when Pele was becoming perhaps the game’s first superstar – and when stars like Garrincha and Stanley Matthews were lighting up the game. During his career, he was chairman of the FA and president of the Football League. He raised huge sums of money for the Munich air crash fundraising committee. And, as Chris Hall reports, he had a key role in decisions on player selection during England’s first World Cup campaign…
Gill Walkinton has no time for the machinations of the international sporting scene.
For her, the latest speculation about the future leader of world football means nothing, because it’s a world away from the home she shares with husband Rob in Fiskerton, near Lincoln.
The couple, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last year, simply aren’t interested in social media or the latest bulletins about the FIFA presidency election in late May.
But the proud 83-year-old is happy to share the memories of when her dad was in the hot seat as the fifth president of football’s ruling elite.
“FIFA are building a museum in Zurich and they’ve contacted me to ask if they can have some memorabilia,” the retired Fiskerton doctor’s receptionist said.
Arthur Drewry was FIFA president for six years from 1955 until his death aged 70 in 1961.
In her father’s time it was completely different, with professionalism still in its infancy and a blurred line separating amateur players and those who got paid. for their efforts on the field
And Mrs Walkinton, nee Drewry, has extremely clear recollections of her early days spent as the daughter of a soccer-mad football administrator.
Awarded the CBE by Queen Elizabeth in 1953, Arthur Drewry was to become a controversial figure who went on to become both chairman of the FA and president of the Football League in the 1950s.
His only daughter lived in Switzerland for a year when he was FIFA boss.
She only met him once in those 12 months because he was such a strict disciplinarian.
Yet they were extremely happy times in the halcyon days when trips to Wembley to watch international matches and FA cup finals were perks of a very demanding job.
Mr Drewry followed his father-in-law as chairman of Grimsby Town FC and moved his family to the village of Tealby, near Market Rasen, in the early 1940s.
“My father went to Switzerland a lot and he even insisted that I went to school there and lived with a family for a year when I was 16,” she said.
“All my mother Ida and he ever got were expenses, no salary in those days, and he was often away for long periods of time.
“Now I dread to think how many people they employ in their grand headquarters. In my father’s time it was a few offices over shops in the centre of Zurich.
“In the late 1940s and through the 1950s, they were very busy but happy times and I was so proud of him.
“It wasn’t just FIFA. In 1948, when I was only 17, he was co-opted on to the London Olympic Games organising committee and I drew all the balls out for the football tournament.
“I was quite excited at the time and they even gave me a watch.
“Now adays it makes me sad to read the papers and see what’s happening in the game that my dad loved.”
Speaking their language
She stressed that one of her father’s strongest assets was he had a strong command of French.
“As a prisoner of war in Turkey during the First World War he’d made friends with a French man and they taught each other their languages,” she said.
“That’s why he insisted that I went over to Zurich to live – but I didn’t really learn much French as they all spoke English to me all the time.”
Mrs Walkinton and her 86-year-old husband, who was a farming consultant, have lived in Plough Lane in Fiskerton for 45 years.
They have a son, daughter and two grandchildren.
Their son Mark is the only one to inherit his grandfather’s passion for the beautiful game.
He’s a dyed-in-the-wool Newcastle United fan, travelling to watch his beloved Magpies from his home in West Yorkshire.
Veteran of two world wars linked to world cup defeat
He knew about hard work, as he had run his father-in-law’s fish merchant business.
But Arthur Drewry was no stranger to conflict and controversy.
Born on March 3, 1891, he served in the Lincolnshire Yeomanry’s 1st Battalion in Palestine during the First World War and rose to the rank of quartermaster sergeant.
And in the Second World War he was right there again – this time as North Lincolnshire’s head warden and chief fire officer.
A magistrate and borough councillor, he had a swift rise through the football establishment, as chairman of his beloved Grimsby Town led to high office both nationally and internationally.
As FA chairman, he proposed rewarding teams with a league point for every goal to encourage attacking play. His suggestion was not taken up.
And he acted as sole selector, overruling England manager Walter Winterbottom who had tried to rest senior players during the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.
Drewry’s decision was costly as the US, seen as minnows, shocked an England team that included the legendary Sir Stanley Matthews in a disastrous 1-0 defeat.
He let the coach make four changes against Spain, who also beat England.
The national team were eliminated, returning home in disgrace.
In 1957 he was one of six FA officials sued by five Sunderland players suspended for refusing to co-operate with an illegal payments investigation.
But Arthur Drewry was also involved in the aftermath of one of the game’s most tragic episodes.
A month after the February 6, 1958 Munich air disaster that claimed the lives of eight of Manchester United’s first-team squad, he was appointed fundraising committee chairman.