Lennart Johansson, who oversaw the introduction of the Champions League during a 17-year reign as president of European football’s governing body, has died at age 89.
The Swedish Football Association said the former Uefa president died on Tuesday after a short illness.
“Lennart Johansson was our biggest international football leader of all time, no Swedish has had a similar influence on football in the world,” the Swedish FA’s president, Karl-Erik Nilsson, said on Wednesday. “He was deeply respected as Uefa president and vice president of Fifa, his leadership has aroused admiration worldwide.”
Johansson was elected to lead Uefa from 1990 to 2007 when he was beaten in the presidential election by Michel Platini. Johansson also served as vice president of Fifa but lost a divisive contest for the presidency to Sepp Blatter in 1998. Blatter rejected allegations of vote-buying, and the two never saw eye to eye after that.
Johansson said creating the Champions League to replace the European Cup was his proudest achievement at Uefa. It evolved into club football’s most lucrative and prestigious competition, with expansion that saw non-domestic champions given the entry.
Uefa was also transformed under Johansson’s rule, from an administrative body into a commercial enterprise managing Europe’s top club and national team competitions. Its headquarters moved from a suburb of the Swiss capital, Bern, to a waterfront facility in Nyon, by Lake Geneva. Johansson was named honorary president of Uefa after losing the presidency to Platini in 2007.