Profile: Soccer socialist - William Gaillard, director of communications and public affairs, Uefa

William Gaillard is in demand. Our interview is delayed an hour - 'Sorry, had to go on TV!' - and as we begin, his mobile trills: the Evening Standard wants Uefa's latest line on recent high-profile incidents involving Chelsea FC.

The 54-year-old comms chief for European football's governing body is based in Switzerland but is in England to watch a brace of Champions League games.

Momentarily it seems unbecoming for such a distinguished man (his CV takes in the European Commission and United Nations; his education is staggeringly good) to be answering questions about refereeing spats and bickering managers, but Gaillard gives the Standard an off-the-cuff quote with confidence and charm.

One of the genial Parisian's journalistic rendezvous in London has been with black paper The Voice. Recent incidents of racism, such as Spain manager Luis Aragones' remark about Gaillard's countryman Thierry Henry, have soured football's image.

'If he was under our jurisdiction, Aragones would have been fined a lot more. What he said I took so personally,' says Gaillard. 'Racism is a social problem, not football's problem, and Uefa only has a tiny role to play... but we'll play it.'

Gaillard grew up wanting to manage the French national team ('football or rugby'). He attended Paris's elite Institute of Political Studies, graduating ('third in a class of 800') in international relations and later won a scholarship to Harvard University.

Aged 27 he joined the European Commission in Washington, handling relations with the European media. He reflects: 'The great failure of Europe is that there has not been enough investment in public affairs - the technocrats have taken over.'

He later joined the UN Drug Control Programme ('a mixed bag of failed initiatives', he says damningly. 'They need to face the issue that the middle classes have an extraordinary tendency to stick white powder up their nose.')

He then spent a decade at the International Air Transport Association, which, he says, he helped to 'come out of the closet' PR-wise, before joining Uefa.

Gaillard spends around eight days per month in Brussels and relishes the task of convincing bureaucrats of football's worth: 'You can't treat sport like, say, the chemicals industry. It has to be nurtured, not regulated. We are a social movement.'

A Scandinavian-sounding sentiment, which Gaillard sustains: 'Our CEO and president are from Sweden (Lars-Christer Olsson and Lennart Johansson) - here, sport is integrated into society. Uefa must help to keep Europe's social fabric together.'

But what about Uefa's Champions League and the perpetual elite it has helped to create? Is the tournament coherent with such egalitarianism? He responds: 'People say the Champions League has created a monster. I don't think that's the case - TV has created a monster. I regret that and Uefa does too, I would love to have it how it used to be.'

He raises the work that Uefa does in far-flung countries such as Ukraine and Moldova: 'The philosophy of Uefa is worth fighting for - we want to keep the football family together, from young teams in northern Finland to major teams in London. We need to ensure football's CSR is fulfilled.'

He supports French strugglers (but once-great) Stade de Reims, although he acknowledges he has not seen them live for more than 30 years. His job keeps him busy enough, plus he has two young boys and enjoys jazz, skiing and - rare among senior football figures - rugby.

What is Gaillard most proud of in his career? He pauses: 'So many multinationals employ native English-speakers as directors of comms; I am proof you can come from a different cultural background and be just as effective as, say, a Brit or an American.

'I would love to finish my career at Uefa,' he concludes, contentedly. 'It's the biggest show on earth, football.'


1978: Head of media relations, EC (Washington)

1983: Chief PR, multinational force and observers (Sinai peacekeeping

force), United Nations (Rome)

1985: Head of external relations, UNRWA (Vienna)

1990: Director of comms and political affairs, UN International Drug

Control Programme (Vienna)

1994: Director of corporate comms, Int'l Air Transport Association

2004: Director of comms and PA, Uefa

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