1955-56 European Cup
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The 1955-56 European Cup was the inaugural season of Europe's premier club competition, which had been created at the UEFA congress in March 1955. As champions of England in the 1954-55 season, Chelsea were one of 18 continental teams invited to participate. The club initially accepted the offer and were drawn to face Djurgårdens of Sweden in the first round.
However, at the time Britain's football authorities had an indifferent attitude to international competitions; the home nations had boycotted the first three World Cups in the 1930s, only finally playing in the tournament in 1950. Alan Hardaker, the autocratic and xenophobic secretary of the Football League, was adamant that Chelsea should not enter the new European Cup, fearing fixture congestion and a loss of prestige for his own competition.
At a meeting at the Great Western Hotel in Paddington on 5th July 1955, the Football League's Management Committee were informed of Chelsea's decision to take part. The committee were unanimous that the club should withdraw, regarding Chelsea's participation as "not in the best interests of the League". Hardaker also cited a Football League rule which allowed it to veto club matches against teams from other countries. Chelsea chairman Joe Mears, himself a member of the committee, was outnumbered and did not press the matter further. Hardaker recalled that the committee "decided [the European Cup] was something of a joke and, at best, a nine days' wonder. It took them just fifteen minutes to decide that they did not want Chelsea... to take part in the first European Cup."
Thus Chelsea missed out on being England's first representatives in the European Cup. A year later Manchester United manager Matt Busby met similar resistance from Hardaker and the Management Committee, but he defied them and entered the competition. Chelsea would have to wait 44 years for their next opportunity to play in it.
- Glanvill, Rick (2006). Chelsea FC: The Official Biography – The Definitive Story of the First 100 Years. Headline Book Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7553-1466-2
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