Lennart Johansson obituary

Former Uefa president who pioneered the Champions League

Lennart Johansson, who has died aged 89, was president of Uefa, the European football association, for 17 years, from 1990 to 2007, during which time he oversaw its growth from an organisation with seven employees and a tiny annual turnover into one that employed 200 people and controlled vast riches. He regarded his greatest achievement there as being the transformation of the European Cup – which previously involved just the champions of each European league – into the Champions League, which took in many more of the top teams and generated far greater revenue.

He was also at the helm when Uefa had to deal with the 1995 Bosman ruling, which belatedly brought freedom of contract into football. Widely seen as a man who wanted to keep football close to its grass roots, even though he was responsible for bringing huge amounts of money into the game, he complained after Bosman that players’ salaries had spiralled out of control, and regretted the fact that big European clubs had switched to buying ready-made stars rather than developing their own youngsters.

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