No history of the Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year award would be complete without first understanding what the FWA is.
The FWA was formed in September 1947 by a group of English journalists with the following aims:
– To maintain the prestige of football writers.
– To obtain higher standards of facilities.
– To maintain a friendly liaison with all football associations, leagues and clubs, as well as FIFA.
– To welcome and entertain overseas football writers carrying out their duties in this country.
– To be a medium for all grievances in London and provinces.
– To promote social intercourse.
Throughout its history the FWA has maintained these standards and evolved from its four founder members to an association of over 500, including broadcast media and supporting student journalists.
The aims have grown to include naming both a men’s and women’s Footballer of the Year and to act as the representative body for those involved in the football media industry.
The start of the FWA
The FWA was founded on board a ship returning from an England fixture in Belgium. Frank Coles, Roy Peskett, Archie Quick and Charles Buchan were the founding writers’ and the minutes record that it was Buchan who suggested an award “to the professional player who by precept and example is considered by a ballot of members to be the footballer of the year.”
Membership was invitation only to begin with and Ivan Sharpe was nominated as the first of the to date 38 Chairs of the association.
Nowadays membership is open to anyone aged 18 or over who “is employed in the football media industry as a journalist, broadcaster, blogger or is a student studying football or sports journalism.”
The first Footballer of the Year was voted on by 42 members and was awarded to Sir Stanley Matthews at the Hungaria restaurant, London.
The past winners make up one of the most impressive lists of who’s who in the English game, with the list of notable players who never won the award testament to the prestige of the award.
Up until the mid 1990s the award was dominated by English, Scottish and Irish recipients. However, with the introduction of the Premier League and the migration of world class talent to England, the past 25 years have had a more global feel to the award.
The FWA Footballer of the Year award is the oldest and most prestigious award in the men’s domestic game.
In 2018 the FWA added a women’s award to honour the best female player for each season, with Chelsea’s Fran Kirby the inaugural recipient.
From Stan to Fran the FWA continues to recognise as Charles Buchan wished “the professional player who by precept and example is considered by a ballot of members to be the Footballer of the Year.”