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News

Wed. 15 October 2014

Interview with Prof. Richard Holt, professor of Sport History at De Montfort University in Leicester and former member of the FIFA Master Scientific Committee

1.    How did you first get involved with the FIFA Master?

Strangely for a historian, I’m not very good at my own history. I can’t really remember exactly how and when I got involved in the FIFA Master but as several students from the first edition recently reminded me: I was there – they remembered! The DMU (De Montfort University in Leicester (England), one of the three partner universities teaching a module of the FIFA Master) module was really begun by Pierre Lanfranchi, whom I’d known from his time at the European University in Florence. I was working part-time at the International Centre for Sports History and Culture and simply gave a few lectures. From the start teaching the FIFA Master was a joy with bright, keen students from around the world. But it did present a challenge. How to teach such good students with high expectations a subject which most of them knew little about? The teaching had to combine being both simple and sophisticated. Unlike Bocconi or Neuchatel, where many of the class have already studied either business or law, History was something new. In fact, this turned out to be an asset. Everyone started at more or less the same level. It is a great credit to the alumni that you met the challenge and even seemed to enjoy it. Remember those trips to Rugby School and Lord’s! All in all, teaching all the editions of the class has been a highpoint of my university career, which began forty years ago. The FIFA students have been ‘fab’- as we used to say in the Sixties.

 

2.    When did you join the Scientific Committee?

I joined the Scientific Committee in 2005 when the Centre Director, Jeff Hill, asked me to replace Mike Cronin, who left to go to Boston College, Dublin. This is part the course that students don’t see. But it’s been a great privilege to work with a succession of inspiring people and a strong administrative team first with Sue Ingle and now led by Vincent Schatzmann: the vitality of the former CIES President, Jean-Louis Juvet, and the charm of his successor, Bertrand Reeb; it has been a privilege to sit alongside Denis Oswald, knowing he gives the same care to chairing the Scientific Committee as he has done in working at the highest level in the IOC. Sharing the job with Pierre Lanfranchi has always been fun if occasionally challenging (trying to find him on his perpetual world travels). Kevin Marston, from the third edition, is a huge asset to the course. And, of course, how could I forget James Panter who has been wonderful to work with – saved me from countless mistakes, always cheerful and efficient. I feel he’s one of the family.

 

3.    What are your fondest memories from the Master?

The graduation ceremonies are always special, the beauty of the castle and the lake and the mixed emotions of seeing another year go off to run the world of sport .The Leicester Christmas dinner has been fun – all those years at the Greek restaurant where the food wasn’t great but the dancing was good – and the strange sense of quietness after you all left. I was always hopeless with visual aids and some of you will remember the ancient transparencies I used to put (upside down) on the machine – all those awful photos of Pierre de Coubertin! You were all very patient and forgiving and for that I’m very grateful. And then there was my bad writing on the board with a marker that never worked, wiping it off with my hand because I hadn’t got a cloth. Low tech, happy days! But my best memory is just standing in front of you all hoping I would be able to think of the next question to ask. But you never let me sown. And when you responded so well, it felt like being like conducting an orchestra. Collectively, I thank you all.

 

4.       Do you plan to remain in touch at all (maybe as guest lecturer)?

Yes, of course, I will stay in touch. I’ll come back as a visiting lecturer (if I’m asked) and maybe do something new instead of my standard lectures. Watch this space…

 

5.       What are your future projects?

I’m completing the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Legacy with my excellent colleague, Dino Ruta, from Bocconi – another gift from teaching the course. I have a contract with Oxford University Press to do a new edition of ‘Sport and the British’ (now 25 years old), ideas for a golf book and maybe some collected essays on sporting heroes. But I also want to try to write something that is not about sport.

 

Personal:

Richard James Holt

Born on 19 April 1948

Partner – Marion Clement

Daughter, Alice Holt, 28, working in Paris

 

Favourite sport: it has to be golf, never mastered it and never will but still love playing a few holes on my own on summer evenings …(but is it ‘sport’ – remember our first classes?)

Favourite team:  for my sins, Newcastle United.

Personality: I have written quite a lot about a Newcastle footballer, Jackie Milburn, a good man and spectacular striker who scored in the first minute of the 1955 Cup Final (the first game I ever saw on tv); I’ve always liked Tom Watson, the great American golfer, who nearly won the Open when he was almost 60! Most great sporting figures aren’t big on ‘personality’ but, of course, Mohammed Ali was unique.

Sporting Moment: So hard to choose …my team hasn’t won anything since the ‘Inter Cities Fairs Cup’ in 1969 (forerunner of the Europa League). But a good moment was Newcastle under Keegan in the 1990s when I saw them beat Antwerp in Antwerp under floodlights and score 5. It was daughter’s first match. Seeing Woods in his prime and Nicklaus (in his last Open) together at St Andrews was a big golf moment.  And Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the year he won.