The peacemaking Andrew M. Brown

Posted on December 10, 2012 12:14 am

The name of Andrew M. Brown appears prominently on two particular occasions in the early history of soccer in the United States. On both of those occasions, his actions earned him the reputation of a mediator between disputing factions.

The first of those occasions came in 1913. Brown was the president of the American Football Association, the long-established organization that was the closest thing American soccer had to a national governing body, although its influence didn’t extend much beyond the East Coast. In the previous year, a new organization, the American Amateur Football Association, had launched a bid to take over the leading role, and sent a representative, Thomas W. Cahill, to the FIFA Congress in Sweden attempting to gain recognition from FIFA for the AAFA. FIFA rebuffed Cahill and supported the position of the AFA, which was not seeking recognition from FIFA but rather was urging FIFA not to grant recognition too hastily to the AAFA. FIFA urged the two sides to find a way to work together and come back to it with a united application.

Brown, who was born in Scotland and originally trained to be a minister, was the leading voice within the AFA for compromise and accommodation with the new organization. However, he met with considerable opposition on this issue from many of his colleagues in the AFA, which broke off merger negotiations with the AAFA in December 1912. Eventually, Brown talked that opposition into coming around to his viewpoint, and led the way as the AFA joined the AAFA, which by then had been renamed the U.S. Football Association, after the USFA won provisional recognition from FIFA in 1913. In a tribute after Brown’s death 35 years later, Gus Manning, the first president of the USFA, wrote that Brown was “soft of tongue, a patient listener, a pacifier of ugly emotions.”

Brown eventually served as president of the USFA himself, in 1927 and 1928. In the first of those years, he performed the most memorable service of his term as president. Austria and Hungary sought to have the United States punished by FIFA because of the signing by American Soccer League teams of players under contract to Austrian and Hungarian clubs. Brown made an emergency trip to the FIFA Congress in Finland, where he managed to fend off those sanctions and negotiate a settlement that ended the ASL’s raids on European clubs (and earned Brown and the USFA some enemies in the ASL).

Brown, who was 57 years old in 1927, wasn’t completely done with having important effects on American soccer when his term as USFA president ended in 1928. In 1929, he was the United States’ delegate at the FIFA Congress in Spain at which the decision was made to hold the first World Cup the following year in Uruguay, a World Cup in which the United States performed very well.

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