100 years of AIPS: World Sports Journalists Day on July 2 will be Centennial Celebration

A century ago in Paris, shortly before the opening ceremony of the eighth Summer Olympic Games, AIPS (Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive) was founded; on Tuesday, July 2, the Association will mark its 100th birthday on World Sports Journalists Day; SJA secretary Philip Barker looks back on its history…

By Philip Barker

A hundred years ago in Paris, the Olympic boxing tournament proved rather explosive.

Britain’s Harry Mallin won middleweight gold, but not before judges discovered that he had been bitten by his opponent.

After a controversial verdict in another bout, there was almost a riot.

A couple of weeks earlier, a boxing ring at the Sporting Club de France had been the setting for a rather more peaceful encounter.

French journalist Frantz Reichel, who was also Secretary of the Paris 1924 Olympic Organising Committee, welcomed some 79 other journalists from 27 nations to the gathering.

Among them was Victor Boin of Belgium, who like Reichel wanted to establish an international organisation for sports journalists.

This would “enhance the cooperation between its member associations in defending sport and the professional interest of their members, strengthen the friendship, solidarity and common interests between sports journalists of all countries and assure the best possible working conditions for the members.”

Reichel was duly elected President of what became known as the Association Internationale de Presse Sportive (AIPS).

30 years earlier, Reichel had been press officer for the famous Congress at the Sorbonne in June 1894 which resolved to revive the Olympics for the Modern Era.

In 1896, he competed in athletics at the Games in Athens and even sent back reports for L’Auto, a French newspaper.

In 1900, he helped the French team win rugby gold in Paris.

Reichel founded the French Boxing Federation and in 1926, was also elected International Hockey Federation President.

In later life, he worked for Le Figaro but in 1932 aged only 61, he collapsed and died from a heart attack at his desk.

Boin was elected as his successor and remained in office until 1956.

As a child, he had been decorated by the Belgian Royal Family for saving a life at sea,

At Olympic Games on either side of the First World War, Boin swam, played water polo and fenced. In 1920 at his home Games in Antwerp, he was the first to speak the Olympic Oath.

Boin had already founded an association for Belgian sports journalists, organised Belgian ice hockey, was a pilot in the early days of aviation and a pioneer in the new medium of radio.

The cover of a book about Victor Boin’s life

He had been President for seven years when another world war put organised international sport on hold. The AIPS was amongst many obliged to make a fresh start when the fighting stopped.

London hosted the first post-war Olympics in 1948. Our association, known then as the Sports Writers’ Association (SWA), had just been formed.

Chairman Harry England welcomed international press to a special congress at which Boin was re-elected as President. Frantz Reichel’s son Marcel became a Vice President. England was also elected Vice President and 1928 Olympic steeplechaser Vernon Morgan, a leading Reuters Journalist, was elected to the Committee.

David Hunn’s history “50 years of the Sports Writers’ Association” reveals that a lunch was held in honour of visiting journalists. The SWA voted £20 towards the cost. Each British attendee was asked to pay for his own ticket and that of a guest.

In 1950, Bill McGowran, by now SWA Chairman, was elected AIPS Vice President.

In 1956, Boin stood down from the AIPS Presidency to lead the Belgian Olympic Committee.

McGowran worked closely with new President Henri Schihin, editor of the Swiss magazine “Sport”.

McGowran died in 1963 and our association inaugurated an award in his name to honour athletes with a disability, believed to be the first of its kind.

The AIPS returned to London in 1973. Princess Anne, by then a successful equestrian competitor, was the guest of honour.

SWA Chairman Frank Taylor was elected President, the first and so far only Briton to hold the position, with Bobby Naidoo as Secretary.

In addition, Swimming Commission head Pat Besford became the first woman to address the Congress. “It was a big moment for Britain and for Frank Taylor who maintained a taste for the politics of the international scene and spent the rest of his life working in it,” observed Hunn.

Taylor had been a survivor of the 1958 Munich air crash which claimed 23 lives. He wrote “The Day a Team Died,” an account of the tragedy and how it affected Manchester United.

He was succeeded as AIPS President in 1977 by Italy’s Enrico Crespi, but founded the European Sports Press Union now known as AIPS Europe. Besford became its Secretary. She was later succeeded in the role by Morley Myers.

Taylor was re-elected as AIPS President in 1981, with the Italian Massimo Della Pergola as Secretary.

They presided over an era when live television and computer technology had become increasingly important.

“The sweet simplicity of the past has been swept away, we welcome all these new and progressive means of speedier dissemination of news,” Taylor insisted.

He was succeeded as President by Togay Bayatli of Turkey, who was in charge when the AIPS returned to British soil in 1994.

The Congress attracted representatives of 120 nations to Manchester, then about to be confirmed as 2002 Commonwealth Games host city.

It was decided that July 2nd, the day of foundation in 1924, would henceforth be World Sports Journalists Day.

In 2005, Italian Gianni Merlo, an athletics specialist with Gazzetta Dello Sport, was elected President and remains in the post to this day.

In the same year, London was elected Olympic host city for 2012. Jayne Pearce, in charge of press operations for the 2012 Games, a role she reprises for Paris 2024, became a familiar face at AIPS events to explain what was being planned.

A few days before London 2012 began, Merlo was invited to carry the Olympic Torch.

He handed the Flame to a familiar figure, our future President Patrick Collins, in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Gianni Merlo passes the Flame to Patrick Collins in Tunbridge Wells (image courtesy of Julie Collins)

The following year, the late Barry Newcombe became the first Briton elected to the AIPS Committee in a decade. He had already served on the AIPS Rugby Commission.

Other British figures on the AIPS stage include Keir Radnedge, who leads the football commission and Craig Lord for swimming. Meanwhile, former SJA Chairman and Secretary Trevor Bond was for many years language editor for the AIPS magazine.

Earlier this year at the resort of Santa Susanna near Barcelona, a Congress was staged to celebrate the Centenary. Committee member Jon Holmes represented the SJA.

The meetings considered the impact of artificial intelligence and other contemporary problems.

“After 100 years of existence, our association enters its new century facing some new professional challenges,” a conference resolution said.

“Our founders clearly saw into the future. They were driven by a correct vision of the evolution of our profession and now it is up to us to respond to the new needs.”

Sign up here to join the online AIPS Centennial Celebration on World Sports Journalists Day on Tuesday, July 2, starting at 1pm BST (2pm CEST).

The SJA is interested in your sports media industry news and views. Keen to reach an engaged audience, including over 70,000 followers across social media? We welcome your enquiries – contact us here. We also offer advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

For information on how to apply as a Full or Associate Member of the SJA, plus details of our free-to-enter SJA Academy, click here.