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European Cup pioneer Jacques Ferran passes away


Jacques Ferran, the French journalist who was a crucial figure in the launching of the European Champion Clubs' Cup in the 1950s, has passed away at the age of 98.

Jacques Ferran with the European Champion Clubs' Cup
Jacques Ferran with the European Champion Clubs' Cup ©Presse Sports

The respected French journalist Jacques Ferran – one of the architects of what eventually became the European Champion Clubs' Cup and, later, the UEFA Champions League – has passed away at the age of 98.

An eloquent and skilful writer at L'Équipe and France Football from 1948 to 1985, Ferran was a figure of prominence (along with the head of L'Equipe's football section, Jacques de Ryswick, and editor Gabriel Hanot) in a campaign in the mid-1950s that pressed for the introduction of a competition for European domestic champion clubs.

The written notes for a European club competition, drawn up by L'Equipe journalist Jacques Ferran.
The written notes for a European club competition, drawn up by L'Equipe journalist Jacques Ferran.©Getty Images for UEFA

Their project gained immediate support, and Ferran was tasked with drawing up a set of draft regulations at the end of 1954. Ferran and Hanot turned to UEFA – founded that same year – for help with their plan, and presented their vision to Europe's national associations at the first UEFA Congress, in Vienna in March 1955. By May 1955, the fledgling body had committed to organising what became known as the European Champion Clubs' Cup.

The new club competition soon took shape and flight. The first Champion Clubs' Cup match took place in Lisbon on 4 September 1955 – Sporting Clube de Portugal and Yugoslavia's FK Partizan battling out a 3-3 draw. In the inaugural final, Real Madrid defeated French opponents Stade de Reims 4-3 at the Parc des Princes in Paris on 13 June 1956.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin paid a warm tribute. "Jacques Ferran was much more than just a gifted journalist, who wrote about football with great passion and consummate skill for so many years," he said.

"He was a pioneer, who had an important impact on football's rich history with his key contribution to the birth of Europe's most illustrious club competition. We at UEFA have much to thank him for, and he will always have a special place in our hearts.

Jacques Ferran was a brilliant writer and football visionary
Jacques Ferran was a brilliant writer and football visionary©Presse Sports

"We extend our deepest sympathy to his family."

Described by L'Équipe in its tribute as "the greatest", Ferran – who was born in Montpellier and raised in the south of France – established a reputation as a writer of immense quality.

"In my view, nothing is more original and important in the entire history of modern sport than the birth at L’Equipe in 1954-55 of the European Cup, which can be considered as the most important competition after the Olympic Games and football's World Cup," Ferran wrote in L'Équipe raconte L'Équipe, 70 ans de passion (L'Équipe on L'Équipe, 70 years of passion), a book published in 2015.

The start of the European Champion Clubs' Cup was not Ferran's sole moment of footballing renown. A few months later, he was among the team that launched the Ballon d'Or. Since the first edition in 1956, won by English winger Stanley Matthews, this individual trophy has fascinated fans and been claimed by some of the greatest stars of the game. "Could you imagine, at that time, that this trophy would take such a considerable place within the football world?" Ferran was asked in a recent interview. "Absolutely not," he replied. "But why would one have imagined this? All that we wanted to do was something that would help France Football to develop and sell itself."

A French teacher who played bridge at international level, Ferran also strove to nurture the French language, leading a special ministerial commission for ten years. He was a devotee of theatre and drama; his younger daughter Pascale became a renowned director in France.

Four years after his retirement as a journalist, he was decorated as a Chevalier de la Legion, one of the highest distinctions in France.

Read the full story of the birth of the European Champion Clubs' Cup here

Read UEFA Direct's interview with Jacques Ferran in May 2016 here