-FIFA’s French President Jules Rimet was the driving force for France becoming the 1938 World Cup hosts.
Initially there were some doubts within FIFA’s hierarchy whether France was capable of hosting the event.
FIFA wanted Rimet to guarantee the same successful conditions as the previous hosts Uruguay and Italy.
He seemed hesitant and suggested to co-host along with Belgium and Holland. FIFA members refused this idea.
However, after he received guarantees that the attendance of Stade Colombes would be increased to 65,000, Rimet guaranteed France’s commitment to host.
Jules Rimet had wanted to have the World Cup in France to follow the World Fair at Paris of 1937.
The ‘International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life’ was to be held from May 25th, 1937 to November 25th, 1937.
Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 55, August 1993
(Official World Cup poster)
Rimet believed having the two events in close proximity would fill up the stadiums.
In some sources it is alleged that Rimet was pushing for the World Cup to be held in 1937 to achieve this goal.
The consensus among the FIFA members appeared to be that as a token of appreciation for Rimet’s service, they should endorse his proposal.
On August 13 (or 15), 1936, during the Berlin Olympics, FIFA members gathered at the Kroll Opera to decide the venue for the next World Cup. Although FIFA had 51 affiliated members, only 23 members voted.
The French Delegation plead its case by reminding all of the efforts of Henri Delaunay and Jules Rimet for the growth of the game.
Rimet and Delaunay were at the meeting, which may have contributed to the ultimate choice.
France received 19 votes, Argentina received 3 and Germany got one.
Photo From: Coupe Du Monde 1938-La Coupe du Monde Oubliee, Author Victor Sinet(Jules Rimet with other FIFA members during the 1936 FIFA Congress in Berlin)
France became the second European hosts after Italy in 1934 and third overall.
The Argentina delegation left the Congress in protest.
Argentina had lobbied for the hosting rights and advanced the idea that the tournament should be hosted alternatively in Europe and South America.
After their request was rejected, the Argentineans pressured the other Nations in the Americas to boycott the World Cup.
Uruguay were already snubbing the World Cup in Europe as they had in 1934 as protest for the refusals of the many European Nations during the 1930 Edition at Montevideo.
Even though the alternating venue location was not written down it was assumed to be the case. Argentina had withdrawn their candidacy in 1930 and supported Uruguay with the belief that the next World Cup in 1938 would be in South America and Argentina.
Brazil would be the only South American Nation to participate.
Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983
(Art Cover by Joe Bridge)
-England and the other British Nations were still boycotting FIFA and did not participate in the qualifiers.
The British Nations were still out of FIFA and would miss out on all the World Cups of the 1930s.
-On December 18th, 1936, a commission was set up headed by Rene Chevalier along with Henri Delaunay, Dr. Ivo Schricker (General Secretary of FFA), the Italian Ottorino Barassi and Frenchman J. Caudron.
On March 14th, 1937 at Paris, FIFA’s executive committee listened to the recommendations of this commission in setting up the Qualification Groups and the Preliminary matches.
Photo From: Coupe Du Monde 1938-La Coupe du Monde Oubliee, Author Victor Sinet
(The Organization committee for the 1938 World Cup in France)
Photo From: Mondial, New Series, Hors Serie 14, 1982, La Glorieuse Epopee De la Coupe Du Monde(The Organization committee for the 1938 World Cup in France)
An Organization commission was also set up that included Hungary’s Maurice Fischer, Holland’s Dirk Lotsy as well as Dr. Schricker and Henri Delaunay.
One of the decisions made was concerning the Final match. It was agreed that if after a replay the match was still tied the two teams would be considered co-winners and each team would hold onto the World Cup for two years each.
Ten other sub-committees were also formed that day for the other administrative issues concerning the World Cup.
Photo From: III Fussballweltmeisterschaft 1938 Frankreich, Author Robert Franta
(Sketch illustration of FIFA members)
-Since the last World Cup, the political climate of Europe had worsened and the continent was on the brink of what many believed would be an inevitable War.
Italy was still under Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini.
At the time of 1934, Hitler’s Nazi Regime had taken over just the year before, but by now their intents were becoming clearer and many believed War and conflict was just around the corner.
-Spain had been in the midst of a Civil War and did not participate internationally and therefore did not play in the qualifiers.
-The 1936 Olympics in Berlin had been marred with Political overtones, as the Nazis had used the event to advance their propaganda.
-Initially 33 Nations (36-37 in some sources) wanted to compete to take. Some withdrew for various reasons and it was left to 24 Nations (26-27-28 Nations in other sources) to compete for the remaining 14 spots.
France as hosts and Italy as defending Champions had automatically qualified.
The deadline for entries was February 15th, 1937. The Qualification draw was made on March 14th, 1937 in Paris.
The actual FIFA membership at this time was 51.
-This would be the first World Cup, where the defending Champion was guaranteed to participate in the following Tournament. This tradition would remain in place until the 2006 World Cup qualifiers (Brazil as 2002 World Cup Champions participated in the Qualifiers, as did all Champions onwards).
Likewise, from this World Cup onwards the host Nation was also guaranteed an automatic spot.
Italy in 1934 would be the only time when the host Nation would have to qualify on the field.
Photo From: L'Auto, Issue 13681, June 5, 1938
(Map of Stade Colombes with its surroundings)
-Austria was annexed by Hitler’s Germany on March 12, 1938 (Anschluss). Austria would withdraw from the World Cup and as a result, fifteen teams took part in the World Cup instead of sixteen.
England had been invited to replace Austria but refused.
-The qualified Nations were as follows:
Europe: France (Host Nation), Italy (Defending Champions), Germany, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, and Belgium.
Note: Austria had qualified, but were withdrawn after the ‘Anschluss’.
South America: Brazil
North/Central America: Cuba