European football in the 1970s

As we continue to mark UEFA's 60th anniversary, we look back at the 1970s – an era when the game became ever more sophisticated and UEFA consolidated its position.

AFC Ajax celebrate winning the 1970/71 European Champion Clubs' Cup
AFC Ajax celebrate winning the 1970/71 European Champion Clubs' Cup ©Getty Images

Dutch flamboyance, German power and English spirit dominated the European Champion Clubs' Cup in the 1970s, with clubs from those three countries winning the trophy every single year in that decade.

The 1970s saw the flowering of some brilliant talent in the Netherlands, a hitherto relatively unheralded football country. Amsterdam side AFC Ajax put the Dutch on the map by reaching the final of the European Cup in 1969, but it was their Rotterdam-based rivals Feyenoord that ushered in a new European order the following year by taking home the trophy.

The stage was then set for Ajax to galvanise the game. Masterminded by the dazzling attacking skills of local boy Johan Cruyff, Ajax swept all before them with their swashbuckling 'total football', in which defenders and attackers exchanged positions, leaving opponents bewildered and beaten.

Ajax lifted the Champion Clubs' Cup in 1971, 1972 and 1973, as well as winning the hearts of football enthusiasts. "Dutch football was very much emerging at that time," said Cruyff. "It was a really different development for football itself … and it had an enormous impact on the whole world, which eventually led to a lot of respect for Dutch football."

Cruyff moved to FC Barcelona after the third title, and Ajax's reign came to an end, clearing the way for FC Bayern München to land a hat-trick. of their own. The German club's talismans were elegant libero Franz Beckenbauer and lethal goalscoring machine Gerd Müller.

Bayern celebrate their 1974 triumph
Bayern celebrate their 1974 triumph©Getty Images

In the 1974 final, Bayern scored a last-gasp equaliser in Brussels to earn a replay – the first ever – against Club Atlético de Madrid, before easing to a 4-0 win when the teams met again a couple of days later. The next two years saw the solid Bavarians maintain their grip on the trophy.

By 1977, the cradle of football had roused itself. English clubs finally came good, making their mark at Europe's highest level. The first to do so were Liverpool FC. This footballing giant craved success and was given it – first by Kevin Keegan in 1977, and then, after Keegan's transfer to Hamburger SV, by his successor, Scotsman Kenny Dalglish, in 1978.

The winners in 1979 provided an astonishing success story. In 1975, Nottingham Forest FC were languishing in the English second division when they appointed Brian Clough as manager. Clough's unique managerial and motivational style triggered a meteoric rise.

In 1977, Forest were promoted, and remarkably, they then won the English championship the next year with a side still containing players who had been at the club when the charismatic Clough had arrived. When Forest then carried off the European Cup in 1979, the fairy tale was complete. For good measure, they proved that their triumph was no fluke as they picked up the trophy again in 1980.

UEFA Cup launched
A new competition emerged on the European scene for 1971/72. The UEFA Cup followed in the footsteps of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which had been created in the 1950s as a tournament for representative teams from European cities that regularly held trade fairs. The change of name was recognition of the fact that the competition was now run by UEFA and no longer associated with trade fairs.

Inaugural UEFA Cup winners Tottenham
Inaugural UEFA Cup winners Tottenham©Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur FC were the first winners, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 3-2 on aggregate in an all-English two-legged final. Liverpool, Feyenoord, VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, Juventus and PSV Eindhoven were the other UEFA Cup winners in the 1970s.

The European Cup Winners' Cup, which had been launched in the early 1960s, was fully justifying its existence by the 1970s and produced some fitting winners in that decade – RSC Anderlecht, Manchester City FC, Chelsea FC, Rangers FC, 1. FC Magdeburg, AC Milan, FC Dynamo Kyiv and Hamburg. In 1973, UEFA also recognised the European Super Cup, contested by the holders of the European Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup.

Helmut Schön and Franz Beckenbauer
Helmut Schön and Franz Beckenbauer©Getty Images

In 1972, Belgium hosted the four-team final round of the UEFA European Championship, with the outstanding West German side emerging victorious. Coach Helmut Schön built a superb squad around Bayern stars Beckenbauer and Müller – both at the height of their powers – flowing midfielder Günter Netzer and attacking left-back Paul Breitner. His side duly hammered the USSR 3 0 in the final.

"Everything worked," Müller recalled. "We had a good harmony and understood each other very well. That also goes for when we were on the pitch. You cannot ask for more."

One of football's most memorable moments settled the destination of the 1976 UEFA European Championship title in Yugoslavia. The dramatic penalty shoot-out in the final culminated in Czechoslovakia midfielder Antonín Panenka audaciously chipping the ball over West Germany goalkeeper Sepp Maier to win the trophy for his country.

"It was the easiest and simplest way of scoring a goal," he later said. "It's a simple recipe. I got the idea that if I delayed the kick and just gently chipped it, a goalkeeper who dived towards the corner of the goal could not jump back up into the air." UEFA noted the growing success of the tournament and decided in 1977 that the 1980 finals would be contested by eight teams.

UEFA modernisation
In July 1972, Gustav Wiederkehr, UEFA's president for the last ten years, passed away suddenly. On 15 March 1973, Artemio Franchi was elected as his successor. The Italian made a significant contribution to the modernisation of UEFA's competitions, advocating an increase in the number of teams contesting the UEFA European Championship finals, as well as overseeing the early years of the UEFA Cup. He was tireless in trying to reduce violence in the game, and he was acutely aware of the power that football held as a social phenomenon.

Artemio Franchi oversaw great change
Artemio Franchi oversaw great change©UEFA.com

A multitude of important decisions were taken. Binding recommendations were issued on maintaining order in stadiums (1976); UEFA's disciplinary bodies (the Control and Disciplinary Committee and the Board of Appeal) were separated from the rest of UEFA's administration and guaranteed independent status (1972); and standard regulations were adopted for all UEFA club competitions (1972).

Other major items on the agenda included the relationship between football and television in the wake of technological developments, as well as football's place within Europe's political union.

In addition, UEFA was on the move again – this time within the Swiss federal capital, Berne. In 1960, UEFA had set up home in the basement of a rented house in the city, moving to Berne's House of Sport in 1962. On 11 February 1974, the general secretariat finally moved into a home of its own in a residential area in a suburb of Berne.

UEFA's growing responsibilities also necessitated an increase in personnel. In 1960, UEFA General Secretary Hans Bangerter had been accompanied by two secretaries. By 1979, the number of UEFA staff had risen steadily to 18, and the next eventful decade beckoned ...

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