Football executive

Football executive

Born: March 14, 1954; Died: June 24, 2014

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David Taylor, who has died at the age of 60 after falling ill during a recent family holiday in Turkey, was one of the most widely-respected football administrators of his generation. As the first chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, the Forfar-born lawyer was held in sufficiently high regard that he subsequently became Uefa's general secretary in 2007 and helped spread the game's gospel throughout the globe. In many respects he was a trailblazer, somebody who regarded the trail as being more important than the blazer, and he genuinely loved the sport, whether watching it at Junior level or the Champions League.

There was nothing stuffy about him, nor a shred of parochialism in his body. On the contrary, Taylor visited all manner of small nations, and was both in favour of extending the size of the European Championship - a campaign which he won - and bringing that tournament to Scotland (and Ireland), a battle which ultimately proved unsuccessful.

He fought his corner though and he believed in football's ability to bring people together, and had unwavering pride in how Scotland had been at the forefront of the sport's development from Bellshill to Burkina Faso.

"When I was growing up," he once said, "I remember every pitch being packed with players at the weekend and it didn't matter what the weather was like, there were hundreds of wee laddies kicking a ball around and going hell for leather. It isn't quite the same any more, and we need to create more indoor facilities in this country. But it is still a wonderful game and one which stirs the blood."

As somebody who was educated at Dundee High School before graduating from Edinburgh University with a law degree, Taylor spent most of his life championing his homeland in a variety of different fields.

He joined the Scottish Development Agency (now Scottish Enterprise) in 1985 and held a number of senior positions within the organisation, as the prelude to being appointed the first director of Scottish Trade International - a body established to promote the country's business overseas.

He possessed all the requisite qualities to shine in the role and there was some surprise when he was confirmed as the SFA's chief executive in 1999. At that stage, the governing body had a reputation for autocracy and self-interest - which has not entirely vanished - but Taylor was determined to make the association more transparent and progressive. That was one of the reasons he invested so much time in the Euro 2008 bid and, although the tournament was eventually given to Austria and Switzerland, Taylor impressed all the officials he met, hence his elevation to a senior job - and subsequent promotion to executive director - with Uefa.

He had the ability to handle controversy without resorting to heavy-handed tactics, repeatedly stressed the importance of giving everybody a fair crack of the whip rather than pandering to a few of the bigger nations, and had become convinced that Scotland would thrive if it gained independence.

The fulsome nature of the tributes yesterday testified to the esteem in which Taylor was held by his peers.

"David was a fine man, a personal friend of mine, and he was somebody who made a great contribution to football, both in Scotland and across Europe, so this is devastating news," said Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive. "He will be very sadly missed by everyone who knew him."

These words were echoed by the SFA president, Campbell Ogilvie, who added: "He was great company, had an astute business mind, and a forward-thinking approach to the game which, allied to his patriotism as a member of the Scotland Supporters Club, helped take the SFA forward. It was no surprise to any of us who witnessed his work at close hand when Uefa came calling for his services. But he has remained a friend of the Scottish FA and the game in general."

Taylor experienced a brush with death in 2011 when he suffered a near-fatal heart attack, while leaving his office at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon in Switzerland. He stopped breathing before a medical team managed to revive him with the help of a defibrillator. Typically, though, he returned to work with the same unwavering dedication and determination to spread the gospel about what he truly believed was a beautiful pursuit, irrespective of those who occasionally bring it into disrepute.

His passing will be most felt by his wife Cathy and his two sons James and Alan, who survive him. But they can perhaps derive some solace from the reflection that David Taylor was a credit to his country. He once remarked: "I'm not saying change is always better, you mustn't lose your traditions. But you have to watch that you're not hidebound by tradition."

It was his philosophy throughout his life.