The Swedish Model and International Sport: Lennart Johansson and the Governance of World Football

Alan Bairner, Paul Darby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


One of the most striking features of the development of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) during the 1990s has been the emergence of a political and economic alliance between the Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) and the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF). What is remarkable about this state of affairs is that the relationship between the two confederations has traditionally been characterised by acrimony and mistrust. However, the election of the Swede, Lennart Johansson, as Europe’s leading football administrator in 1990 has transformed the climate of power relations between African and European football. As well as exploring the nature of the Afro-European coalition and assessing its impact on world football politics, this article examines how and why Johansson came to form the central axis around which this new relationship was brokered. Particular attention is accorded to Johansson’s nationality and it is argued that his approach to the governance of world football is underpinned by the broader philosophies that are embodied within his own country’s system of political, social, economic and sporting organisation, or the ‘Swedish model’ as it has come to be known. The paper adopts a qualitative methodology involving in-depth interviews with Johansson as well as key figures within Svenska Fotbollförbundet (Swedish Football Association) and those parliamentarians responsible for their respective parties’ sports policies. Extensive use is also made of primary archival sources obtained from the Swedish Sports High School (Idrottshögskolan) in Stockholm, the Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) in Farsta and additional primary research sources obtained from FIFA, CAF and UEFA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-359
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2001


  • Swedish model
  • Swedish Sport
  • Lennart Johansson
  • FIFA
  • UEFA
  • African football


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