Champions League founder Gerhard Aigner dies aged 80

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A founder of the Champions League has died at the age of 80.

A founding member of the UEFA Champions League and former UEFA general secretary and chief executive Gerhard Aigner has died at the age of 80 on Thursday, June 20.

In memory of Aigner’s passing, Euro 2024 games that take place today will observe a minute’s applause before each respective game kicks off - as such, this will apply to Slovakia vs Ukraine, Poland vs Austria and The Netherlands vs France.

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Aigner began life in football as a referee, after spending time as an amateur player and coach in the local ranks of his native Germany. He also spent plenty of time abroad in his younger years, in countries such as England, Spain and Switzerland.

He also studied economics in his youth - he attended Regensburg's economic high school and worked as an apprentice in foreign trade. UEFA was a small, fledgling organisation before Aigner joined its ranks - he is credited with being a major player in helping it become the international behemoth it is today.

In 1969, he accepted an offer to become the head of UEFA's refereeing and youth football sector - a role he would hold for several years. In 1988, he became UEFA’s general secretary, after he was nominated by the Executive Committee. He remained in this position until 1999 - during his time in the role, he played a pivotal role in formally introducing the Champions League in 1995.

In an official statement on the UEFA website, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: "Football has lost one of its truly great leaders. Gerhard was instrumental in the creation of the Champions League and played a critical role in turning UEFA into the modern governing body of European football that it is today. He was a man of utmost integrity who always championed the true values of the game. We will miss him enormously."