Scotland's 'extraordinary' Will mourned by football

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The Independent Football

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has led the tributes to David Will, one of leading lights of Scottish football, who died last night aged 72.

Will, who was Britain's FIFA vice-president for 17 years until he retired in 2007, had been suffering from cancer.

A lawyer from the small town of Brechin, Will became involved in football as chairman of Brechin City before eventually becoming president of the Scottish Football Association and taking the FIFA position to become one of the most powerful men in the game.

Although he clashed with Blatter in 2002 over organisation's finances, the pair settled their differences and when he retired Will was made an honorary life vice-president of FIFA.

Blatter said today: "Thanks to his wisdom, diplomacy and integrity, David made an extraordinary contribution to our game in his life.

"His great warmth, kindness and humour made him and extremely popular figure who will live long in the memory of all who had the good fortune to meet him."

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith also paid tribute to him, saying: "This news has absolutely devastated everyone here at the Scottish FA and, I am sure, throughout the football world.

"David was a giant of the game. His knowledge and love for football saw him rise from a small-town club to the vice-presidency of FIFA.

"He was one of the most humble yet influential figures in the game and he played his part in taking football around the world.

"We have lost a friend today - and football has lost one of its most committed and talented sons."

A kind and dignified man, Will soon became adept and dealing with the cut and thrust of football politics. In 1998, he survived an attempt by the then Football Association chairman Keith Wiseman to take the FIFA seat - Wiseman had offered the Welsh FA a £3.2million loan but instead was forced to resign - and Will was never challenged again.

His involvement in the failed campaign orchestrated by UEFA to bring down Blatter in 2002 could have proved politically disastrous, but after Blatter had easily won the presidential election the pair buried the hatchet.

Will continued his FIFA work even after stepping down in 2007 and until recently was involved in ticketing arrangements for next summer's World Cup in South Africa.

He also remained implacably opposed to any involvement by Scotland in a Great Britain Olympic team despite Blatter's reassurances that it would not harm the home nations' separate status.

Shortly after he stepped down from as FIFA vice-president, he told Press Association Sport: "I'm sure Sepp Blatter means what he says but as there is nothing to stop any association bringing up a vote in Congress and saying 'the four British associations have played together at an Olympics so they can do so at a World Cup as well'.

"It is taking a huge chance to join a British team, even an Olympic team and why should the associations take that chance? I have never accepted that we should take such a risk."

Will was succeeded at FIFA by Geoff Thompson, the former FA chairman, who said: "David contributed greatly to the game in his beloved Scotland and worldwide.

"He was a good colleague and helped me tremendously in my early days in UEFA, and it was a honour to follow him as the British vice-president of FIFA."

Former Scottish FA secretary Ernie Walker said: "David Will was quite simply the best ambassador abroad that Scottish football ever had. He was an outstanding legislator and a man of the highest moral principles.

"On a personal level, he was my best friend for 40 years and will be terribly missed."

Will leaves a wife, Margaret, and two daughters.