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European football mourns Pierre Delaunay

Pierre Delaunay, who served as UEFA General Secretary between 1956 and 1959, and a former General Secretary of the French Football Federation (FFF), has passed away at the age of 99.

Former UEFA General Secretary Pierre Delaunay, pictured in 2005
Former UEFA General Secretary Pierre Delaunay, pictured in 2005 ©Flash Press

Pierre Delaunay, the Frenchman who was UEFA's second General Secretary, has passed away at the age of 99.

Mr Delaunay was General Secretary of the European governing body in the early years of its existence, from 1956 to 1959. He succeeded his father Henri Delaunay, who was UEFA's first General Secretary after the body was founded on 15 June 1954, and who passed away on 9 November 1955.

Pierre Delaunay was UEFA's General Secretary from 1956 to 1959
Pierre Delaunay was UEFA's General Secretary from 1956 to 1959©UEFA.com

Pierre Delaunay, born on 9 October 1919, and previously secretary of the French professional league, was considered as the ideal successor to his father. After serving first on an interim basis, he was officially appointed as UEFA General Secretary at the 1956 general assembly in Lisbon.

He also succeeded his father as General Secretary of the French Football Federation (FFF), and worked from the same office in Paris, as UEFA had yet to acquire its own headquarters, splitting his time between the two institutions. He served under UEFA's first President, Ebbe Schwartz (Denmark), who took office after UEFA's birth in 1954.

UEFA moved from Paris to the Swiss federal capital Berne in 1960, and Pierre Delaunay decided to stay in France. He was succeeded as UEFA's General Secretary by Hans Bangerter (Switzerland). He continued to work at the FFF and attended meetings of the UEFA Executive Committee as a member until 1962. He completed one term of office and remained a member of the European Championship organising committee until 1969.

Pierre Delaunay (left) at a UEFA meeting in 1959
Pierre Delaunay (left) at a UEFA meeting in 1959©UEFA archives

During his term as General Secretary, UEFA continued to take important strides forward in its role as the umbrella body of European football. The European Champion Clubs' Cup, Europe's flagship club event then featuring the continent's domestic champion clubs, had already been founded in April 1955, and a new European competition for senior national representative teams, the European Nations' Cup, later to become the UEFA European Championship, got under way in 1958. Pierre Delaunay was a staunch champion of the initial vision of his father for a European national team competition, and helped bring this vision to fruition.

After leaving the FFF, Pierre Delaunay opened an antiques shop in Versailles, and accepted a proposal to write a book – 100 ans de Football en France, which looked at the last century of football in the country.

Pierre Delaunay remained a close friend of football and UEFA as a member of the Amicale des Anciens circle of former UEFA committee members.

He championed unity and solidarity among the football community. After stepping down as General Secretary, he wrote in the January 1960 edition of the UEFA Official Bulletin: "Knowing the extraordinary enthusiasm of the crowds for football, its power to reach all classes of society and the moral influence it exercises over our youth, we must all, as European leaders, be deeply aware of our responsibilities.

"It behoves us therefore to fight against any split, to subordinate all personal interests to the general one, to continue to make great efforts to understand each other better, to promote an active interchange of ideas."

The current UEFA General Secretary, Theodore Theodoridis, said: "Pierre Delaunay's belief in unity and the power of football endures today in the organisation he served.

"He was a key driver in the establishment of what we now know as the UEFA European Championship, which had been the vision of his father. It is fitting that the EURO celebrates its 60th anniversary next year with the biggest celebration of European unity that has ever been staged. It will be a wonderful tribute to all that he stood for.

"Football is the world’s game, and men like Pierre Delaunay taught us to try and harness its popularity for the greater good."

UEFA and the European football community wishes to extend its deepest sympathy to Pierre Delaunay's family.