Former UEFA president Lennart Johansson dies, aged 89

Lennart Johansson

June 5 – Lennart Johansson, the longest-serving president of UEFA and one of the great statesmen of European football who campaigned tirelessly for fair play on and off the field, has died at the age of 89.

Johansson, who was also a FIFA vice-president, reigned from 1990 to 2007 including during the dark days of hooliganism.

He is best known for overseeing the introduction of the Champions League in 1992 and transforming the finances of European football’s governing body.

Sweden’s FA confirmed Johansson, whose health had steadily declined in recent years, had died after a short illness.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino paid tribute to Johansson just before opening the FIFA Congress in Paris.

“I am heartbroken by the news of the passing away of Lennart Johansson. He was a friend and an invaluable source of wisdom and inspiration,” said Infantino.

“I will be forever grateful for having had him as the president of UEFA when I joined the organisation in 2000. Since then, Lennart has always been a role model of professionalism and, more importantly, of humanity.”

Johansson, head of the Swedish league from 1978 to 1984, was a fanatical AIK supporter and was chairman of the club from 1967 to 1980. He also had a soft spot for Arsenal. Johansson said creating the money-spinning Champions League to replace the European Cup was his proudest achievement at UEFA.

He began his UEFA reign in 1990 until losing out to Michel Platini at which point he was named honorary president.  Halfway through his reign he took on Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 1998 but lost a divisive contest.

Blatter rejected allegations of vote-buying but Johansson continued to be a fierce critic of the Swiss and right up his death railed against corruption in the world game.

In his retirement, even as his health deteriorated, Johansson continued to be one of the most approachable figures ever to grace football administration, stopping to talk with journalists on any number of topics during appearances at FIFA and UEFA functions.

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