Brian Mawhinney: Tributes as former Football League chairman dies aged 79

Brian Mawhinney
Lord Mawhinney oversaw several significant changes to the Football League

Tributes have been paid to former Football League chairman Brian Mawhinney who has died aged 79.

The Belfast-born Conservative peer led the league, now known as the EFL, for seven years from 2003.

Lord Mawhinney was awarded life membership of the organisation in 2012.

"Everyone associated with the EFL is saddened to hear of the loss of Lord Mawhinney, a hugely respected and influential figure in our recent past," said EFL chair Rick Parry.

He said Mawhinney had "a significant impact on the wider game".

In a statement, his family said the "much-loved husband, father and grandfather and a friend to many" died on Saturday after a long illness.

"His death brings an end to a life dedicated to public service and rooted in an unwavering Christian faith," the statement said.

The former chairman of the Conservative Party joined the House of Lords in 2005 after standing down as MP for North West Cambridgeshire.

He had a Commons career that lasted more than 25 years, and served as transport secretary under prime minister John Major.

In football, he oversaw a league rebranding, the introduction of a fit and proper persons test for club owners and sanctions for clubs entering administration.

"Lord Mawhinney was awarded a life membership in 2012 for the significant contribution he made to the league during his seven years at the helm, during which, he made a number of important introductions as part of a substantive programme of governance reforms," said Parry.

"He was also the driving force behind the league's first solidarity arrangement with the Premier League, the formation of the Football League Trust and a significant rebranding to support subsequent commercial development.

"Club owners, their respective teams and staff at the EFL remember Lord Mawhinney's time at the league fondly and our collective thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad and difficult time."

Mawhinney was also patron of Peterborough and the League One side paid their own tribute.

"Brian was a tremendous ambassador for this football club and his love and knowledge of the game was always a great help to Peterborough United, a football club he loved," said chief executive Bob Symns.

Under Mawhinney's Football League leadership, in 2004 Divisions One, Two and Three became the Championship, League One and League Two.

A fit and proper persons test for prospective club directors followed - and was also later adopted by the Premier League.

Then in 2004-05 new rules were brought in which introduced points penalties and other sanctions for clubs entering administration - a move which proved controversial for fans of some clubs, and made Mawhinney a divisive figure for many of them.

Clubs were also forced to publish their spending on agents' fees and "dual representation" - where agents represent both a player and a club during a transfer - was banned.

Mawhinney, a devoted Christian and former General Synod member, also oversaw the introduction of rules forcing clubs to disclose the identities of their owners following troubling periods for clubs including Leeds United and Notts County.

He stepped down from the role in 2010, when Greg Clarke - who now heads the Football Association - took over the position.

In his farewell letter Mawhinney called for clubs falling into administration to be relegated and also warned that clubs needed to better control players' wages and agents' fees.

In 2012 the League rewarded Mawhinney for his "exceptional contribution during a decade of service to the world's original league football competition" with a life membership of the organisation.

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