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Roger Blanpain, one of FIFPro’s founding fathers and its first president, passed away on Tuesday evening in Leuven, Belgium. He was 83 years old.

FIFPro would like to pass on its condolences to his family and friends.

Blanpain is one of the main people in FIFPro history. He was a driving force behind the development of a world players union, which was established on 15 December 1965. On that day the representatives of the player’ unions of England, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Scotland chose him as the first FIFPro president.

Blanpain was a Professor of Social Law at Leuven University. He also taught at universities in Germany, France, Japan and the United States. He had studied law at Leuven University and obtained a Master of Arts degree at Columbia University, New York.

In his field Blanpain was an authority. He was a strong advocate for legislation that protects the weakest workers and fought to revise many regulations to achieve that protection.

Blanpain was very outspoken. He once said: “A professor has the freedom to speak his mind. However, most academics primarily want to fit in. In my opinion, they are obliged to identify social issues and to address them. If people don’t have a voice, I will raise mine.”

Defending players' rights

Bertrand Blanpain 250On behalf of professional footballers, Blanpain fought against any transfer system. In a 2015 interview, the Belgian professor said: “Buying and selling people to make profit is pure human trafficking. It is a shame that a transfer system still exists, while the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights clearly states that human trafficking is prohibited.”

Blanpain remained close to FIFPro and became its honorary president. “His enthusiasm and energy were inspiring”, FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen recalled.

“The last time I met him was last year at our 50th anniversary in Amsterdam. He really wanted to be there and attend the legal conference. It was amazing to see that, even at the age of 83, he was still incredibly driven. He was very sharp and had the most interventions of all people attending.”

Throughout the years Blanpain influenced and motivated many lawyers to become specialized in sports law to defend the rights of athletes.

“All professional footballers in the world have lost a very, very good friend”, Van Seggelen said.