In 1909, more sport editors appeared. In Amsterdam the Algemeen Handelsblad appointed G. J. Nijland and in Rotterdam, the NRC placed H.A. Meerum Terwogt in the role. This emergence showed that sport was being taken more seriously. Sport was no longer just for a few teenagers or students in the west of the Netherlands, questioned by pedagogues, preachers and politicians, but was, as these youngsters grew up, becoming a more respectable part of daily life supported by politicians, businessmen and industrialists.

But the pre-First World War Dutch sporting world was small. Meerum Terwogt was, like many other early sport journalists, an intimate part of the sporting world. At the age of 17 he became a board member at RAP and later an administrator at the Amsterdam Football Association, as well as an international referee. Sporting journalism was not fed by a popular hunger for news or reportage, but by those who played and administered matches, by a need to communicate. Even the daily presses at the beginning of the twentieth century served specific, often limited audience, be it religious, political or geographical. Newspapers such as the Algemeen Handelsblad, De Telegraaf and NRC, where sport was most prominent, were all broadly attached to liberal interests in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the same constituency where sport itself was most prominent.

The expansion of sport across the Netherlands can be seen by the emergence of sporting reports in new areas. Sports reporting was becoming a profession. Dutch Socialists, amongst others, had often been sceptical of sport, as something which would distract from more worthwhile efforts, as something which perhaps, was governed by and for the elite. However by the 1910s the importance of sporting culture was impossible to ignore even for the leading socialist publications. Around 1912, the official daily publication of the Socialist party, Het Volk, began publishing sporting reports, demonstrating that even once reticent publications were beginning to realise the necessity to report on sport. An early report showed an unusual flair for sports reporting noting that the increasingly wondrous pace of modernity meant that ‘we live in the time of the impossible, or rather, in the time where things which were once thought impossible now appear possible.’ It continued that many would have laughed if you had suggested that men would fly like birds in the sky, sit on trains far from home and talk to their wives on a telephone. The opening paragraph of the report finished by saying that if you had suggested the Sparta– Ajax game of the previous day would end in a goalless draw, people would have laughed just as hard. (link)

The emergence of regular daily periodicals and an increasing number of sporting publications meant that some periodicals had to offer new and innovative features. One of the best sports collections in the Delpher archive is that of De Revue der Sporten, first published in June 1907. This magazine, created and edited by noted sport enthusiast Leo Lauer, was the first Dutch sport publication to regularly use photographs of sporting events from around the world. The first edition presented a review of the 1906/07 football season littered with photographs of directors, teams and by-standers, and contained articles on cricket, hockey, bandy, horse racing, wrestling, sporting art, action from southern France and an article on tyre manufacture. (link) Again, those involved with the publication were key members of the sporting world, with collaborators including the vice president of the Dutch Football Association, the president of the Dutch Cricket Association, and presidents of both the national Korfball and Kaatsen associations. While the Dutch sporting world was still relatively small, magazines like De Revue der Sporten demonstrated that there was an increasing interest in pushing back the borders and publishing more than just information; sport was slowly becoming an entertainment and moving towards a more popular pastime.


The emergence of new sporting journalists, attached to daily newspapers with their larger resources, placed sporting discourses firmly within Dutch daily life, as not only a specialist interest but part of the wider news cycle. Reports on football demonstrate how perceptions about this sport changed around the turn of the century. At the start of the 1900s football was the third most reported upon sport, often seeming to be ignored in earlier sport periodicals, but throughout the 1910s it become dominant and by the early 1920s sports reporting was becoming to a great degree homogenised. While individual reports differed, many sports sections had a similar format, largely focused upon matches in the expanding leagues of the Dutch Football Association, with other sports or rival football leagues relegated behind this. The popularity, and popularisation, of football was becoming apparent in everyday texts and would increase after 1918.

The development of Dutch sporting publications, from limited, local ‘insider’ publications at the end of the nineteenth century, to the appearance of sport in a wide range of daily newspapers by the end of 1910s shows both how sport, and in particular football, had become an accepted part of daily life and how it had began to move away from an activity participated in by a few, to one which was becoming increasingly popular across the country. While sporting presses were still often linked to organisations or insiders, they began to expand and move beyond their earlier informational nature and to become part of the sporting space. When the first large sporting stadium in the Netherlands was built in 1914, the plans included dedicated rooms and telephone lines for journalists to report on the games taking place. In the 1920s this growth continued and by 1927, there were 58 specialist sporting publications and almost all newspapers had a sporting section. In 1928, the Amsterdam Olympics gave new impetus to sporting reports as thousands of journalists came from around the world and the success of Dutch athletes saw a host of Dutch sporting journalists report the news.

Delpher offers an enormous resource for research into the development of both Dutch sport and Dutch sporting journalism, a resource, I have only so far scratched the surface of. While it is not exhaustive and any researcher needs to pay attention to what is not held in the archive as much as what is, for those who read Dutch the breadth and depth of the material available, from across the country and different periods, is impressive. For those who don’t, magazines like De Revue der Sporten or Lauer’s later magazine Sport in Beeld, can provide a fascinating glimpse into early Dutch sporting cultures or perhaps just a way to lose yourself finding the most outrageous moustache for a few hours. (link)

Article © Nick Piercey