December 10, 1977
The most powerful man in European football paid his first visit to Liverpool this week. Hans Bangerter, general secretary of UEFA for the last 18 years, is the man who word counts for most in football’s corridors of power. He arrived on Merseyside for Tuesday’s Super Cup Final between Liverpool and S.V. Hamburg, and had some chilling words for Englishmen who cannot behave themselves when their teams play abroad.
“UEFA is prepared to change its regulations so that clubs can be compelled to play matches in empty stadiums,” he said.
“This has not yet been decided, but I can see it as one of the possibilities.”
Herr Bangerter, a Swiss who has risen from local sports administration to head one of the biggest sporting organisations in the world, emphasised that UEFA takes a very serious view of misbehaviour by British football followers.
“We have had trouble before, with Glasgow Rangers in Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur against Feyenoord, and Leeds United in Paris. Now we have the trouble with Manchester United supporters at St. Etienne.
“I cannot explain it. To me this is some kind of enigma. It is a sociological problem and I believe it has not much to do with football at all. These people believe they can let off steam at big football grounds. It is a problem that football alone cannot solve.”
Herr Bangerter called for more severe action against hooligans on the part of the law courts, and he defended UEFA’s expulsion of Manchester United from the Cup Winners’ Cup – later modified to a ban on the playing the second leg of the St. Etienne tie at Old Trafford.
“That is the only way we have open to us,” he said.
“Someone has got to be responsible and it has to be the club. We do know that these are harsh measures, but that is the only way we can keep the whole thing under control.
“The supporters must realise that if they behave badly they are compromising the club they want to succeed. They should be sensible and behave in the right manner. We will not diminish our strong actions in this field.”
Herr Bangerter was at pains to point out the pains to point out the value UEFA places on English football, despite the crowd problems.
“English football has always been, and still is, very attractive. English clubs and German clubs have been the most successful in our competitions for many years. Liverpool is regarded as one of the leading clubs in UEFA.”
With the World Cup finals a little over six months away, there have been renewed calls for the number of countries competing in the finals in the next World Cup to be increased from 16 to 24. This was one of the main themes of Dr Joao Havelange’s campaign for the FIFA presidency three years ago, and one which won him a lot of support from third world countries.
At the time the European nations were opposed to the idea, and even though some of them are now having second thought, Herr Bangerter said that he was still aginst the plan.
“In a way it would be a good thing for more European teams to be represented, but on the other hand there would be quite a number of countries from Africa, Asia, Oceania and Central America who would then also have to be accommodated, which means the quality would be diminished,” he said.
Herr Bangerter is also concerned about the threat to European football posed by the emergence of the United States, and believes that more top players and top coaches will join the trek across the Atlantic.
“As long as the rules and regulations are being observed by the clubs and officials, there is nothing we can do about it,” he said sadly.
Dealing with problems like this are all part of the exacting job of being UEFA’s general secretary. Over the years, Herr Bangerter has acquired a fund of experience to help him tackle them.
He first became prominent as the secretary of the Federal School of Sport and Gymnastics in Switzerland, and stepped into football administration as assistant general secretary of FIFA. After seven years he was offered the top job with UEFA, and has been there ever since. He plays gold and goes ski-ing when he can, but says:
“I do so much travelling all around Europe and attend so many meetings that I really do not have a lot of time for other activities. But I love the job – that’s why I do it.”
(Source: Liverpool Echo: December 10, 1977; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited